Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Summary: Senior year is almost upon Atlanta-native Anna, and she cannot be more excited about the upcoming school year. She has an awesome best friend that she loves hanging out with, and best of all, she met a boy and is eager to discover how everything will turn out with him. All of her excitement comes to a screeching halt, however, when Anna’s father sends her to a boarding school in Paris. As expected, Anna is crushed. Can she find a way to cope with her new situation?
Review: D’aww, Anna and the French Kiss gave me all of the warm and fuzzy feels. ALL OF THEM! I made the mistake of starting this one before I went to bed, and two hours later, I was still reading it with no intention of putting it down, which is a problem when you need to be a functioning adult in the morning. Oh well, I am perfectly fine with the fact that I lost sleep because I was reading Anna and the French Kiss, as it was awesome!
I’m not entirely sure why, but one of my all-time favorite YA plot elements involves kids being sent to boarding school. To me, boarding school has this wonderful mystique about it, where young people can go and live dazzling, exotic lives, but I’m sure this is just my projection of what I think going away as a teenager is like, as I always wanted to go to summer camp and never got to. Having the book take place in Paris was especially exciting, and watching Anna trying to fit in with a new culture and the customs therein was wholly believable. This was particularly well done as it related to Anna’s language acquisition and the progress she made with it throughout the book. When she first moved to France, she knew very little of the language, and the plot definitely touched upon the pitfalls of this particular dilemma, often in rather hilarious ways.
Even though Anna was dropped into an unknown land, she had a relatively easy time making friends, which, in turn, made her transition a bit smoother than it would’ve been had she been forced to navigate everything alone. All of the interactions between the teenagers seemed authentic, especially as it related to everyday situations. Some of the characters were a bit more standoffish than others, while others accepted Anna right away, which provided a magnificent contrast and would be akin to what one would experience in high school.
Especially poignant was how the relationship between Anna’s home friends evolved after she left. When she returned home for Christmas break, things were much different than when she had left. While it was sad to see that things had changed, it was also really realistic. Much like Anna was creating a new life for herself, her friends from home were doing the same thing. It’s always hard when your friends seem to be moving on without you, but it is a part of growing up, especially if one moves away. Perkins handled this concept in a rather exceptional way.
The romance within the book was sweet and frustrating at times, which is exactly how it tends to play out in real life. Often little hints are mentioned, but the person to which they are directed at is never quite sure whether they’re reading too much into it, especially when said person is in high school. This is exactly how it was depicted in Anna and the French Kiss.
In the same vein, the betrayals and misunderstandings were often rather hard to take, but much like the authenticity of the romance, elements of truth shined through. Who hasn’t gotten upset with a friend over something, especially a boy, and didn’t talk to them for awhile?
Of all of the characters, my favorite was definitely Etienne. Etienne was complex and interesting, and my heart ached for him as things went wrong in his life. He tried to be a great friend to everyone, and his multi-faceted emotions and effort to put on a brave face made him extremely likeable.
If you’re looking for a realistic book about being sent away to boarding school, definitely give Anna and The French Kiss a try. I can’t wait to read more of Stephanie Perkins’ books!
Read-alikes: 13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares – Rachel Cohn, DUFF – Kody Keplinger