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Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Anna and the French Kiss' by Stephanie PERKINS

Received from the publisher

From the BLURB:

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.
As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

‘Anna and the French Kiss’ is the debut YA novel from Stephanie Perkins.

Anna’s senior year is not going as planned. Instead of living it up in her home town of Atlanta, Georgia and crushing on her cinemaplex fantasy boyfriend, Anna is being shipped to a French boarding school. Really, it’s like something out of a Charlotte Bronte novel. Anna’s father has hit the big-time with his schmaltzy romance-depression novels, and he insists on giving Anna some cultural learning. So Anna is going to the School of America in Paris. Paris – where the French are renowned for hating Americans, white sneakers and fast food. What is a little Georgia-peach like Anna supposed to do?

Anna’s homesickness is eased when she is befriended by the football-loving Meredith – who then introduces her to Josh and Rashmi. . . and Étienne St. Clair. Étienne is the boarding school’s resident heartthrob – every girl wants to date him, and every boy wants to hate him. And it doesn’t take long until Anna joins the St. Clair fanclub. But he has a girlfriend. Plus he’s British – well, British/American/French. . . still, far too refined for little ol’ Anna. But what does it mean when St. Clair starts spending all his free time with Anna. What does it mean when she starts calling him Étienne and a drunken revelation could change everything. . .?

I started reading this book at 8PM one night, and found myself inhaling the last page at midnight. I literally could not pry the book from my hands, it was so darn good! And it’s definitely going on my 2010 favourite’s list!

Perkin’s debut is very much a contemporary teen romance, with all the trimmings. It’s boy meets girl, except with a Paris setting and heightened teen melodrama when homesickness and distance factor into the emotional equation.

Anna is a fantastic protagonist. I loved the fact that she was a shy, clean-freak (mostly because I could relate!). Anna gets to Paris and can only think about how homesick she is, and self-conscious at being a ‘crass’ American. I think she had a very relatable and understandable reaction to her boarding school experience. Of course Perkins could have gone to the other end of the spectrum and written about Anna cutting loose and going crazy on her freedom (and the French drinking age of 16!). But I really related to Anna’s shyness, and it was interesting to read her intimidation of Paris. Anna has a really big hang-up at not being able to speak the language, and this made for interesting reading and insight into the life of an international student. Little things become big anxieties – like going to the cinema and asking for movie ticket! I loved the ‘Lost in Translation’ examination. It also made for some pretty hilarious moments in the novel;
The only French word I know is oui, which means ‘yes,’ and only recently did I learn it’s spelled o-u-i and not w-e-e.
Anna was really terrific – a perfect teen bundle of neuroses and bravery. Because she was so scared of her Paris experience, it made her small triumphs that much more epic!

And then there’s Étienne St. Clair. . . *dreamy sigh*. Ahhh. . . never has there been a more swoon-worthy fictional teen pin-up. Étienne is the whole package – he has the accent (British!) he’s got a crooked smile, effortlessly mussed hair, a killer sense of humour and a romantic-steak a mile wide. I loved him! I especially loved that his complications weren’t always easy to decipher. . . it’s up to Anna (and readers) to interpret his actions, from drunken ramblings to ‘is he touching Anna’s leg on purpose in the darkened movie theatre’? I loved the melodrama and emotional roller-coaster that Étienne and Anna go on – because I was invested in these two from the get-go.

‘Anna and the French Kiss’ is unabashedly romantic. I loved the tension, the will-they-or-won’t-they guess-work was fantastic. . . and Étienne + Anna were too freakin cute!
We have a perfect view of the entrance – hundreds and hundreds of tiny figures carved into three colossal archways. The statues look like stone dolls, each one separated and individualized. “They’re incredible,” I whisper.
“Not there. Here.” He points to my feet.
I look down, and I’m surprised to find myself standing in the middle of a small stone circle. In the centre, directly between my feet, is a coppery-bronze octagon with a star. Words are engraved in the stone around it: POINT ZÉRO DES ROUTES DE FRANCE.
“Mademoiselle Oliphant. It translates to ‘Point zero of the roads of France.’ In other words, it’s the point from which all other distances in France are measured.” St. Clair clears his throat. “It’s the beginning of everything.”
I look back up. He’s smiling.
“Welcome to Paris, Anna. I’m glad you’ve come.”

One thing I really loved about this book was the examination of family. It’s not an all-consuming focus of the novel, but Perkins at least touches on familial issues. So often in contemporary YA books parents are convenient no-shows, swept under the rug for storyline’s sake without a believable reason for their absence. That’s not the case in ‘Anna and the French Kiss’, though it easily could have been. Shipping her protagonist off to a boarding school could have given Perkins a legitimate excuse to skip over discussions of family. . . but instead she writes about these teenagers feelings of abandonment and displacement that comes with their family sending them away. It’s a big deal for Étienne especially, who has never been close to his father. And for Anna, whose father changed when he gained success. . . and I've got to say, Anna’s father (hilariously!) reminded me of a certain American pulp-writer of schmaltzy love stories. . . *cough* Nicholas Sparks! *cough*.

There are two more books planned as companions to Anna’s novel. ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’ is set for a Fall 2011 release, while ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ is slated for Fall 2012. Isla has a cameo appearance in ‘Anna and the French Kiss’, but I’m not so sure I know who Lola is. . . regardless, I did think at the end of ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ that the story could go on (and I would like little glimpses into Anna and Étienne’s ongoing romance! *squee!*). So I was thrilled to learn of these ‘companion’ sequels!

‘Anna and the French Kiss’ is the literary equivalent of a chocolate éclair. Chocolatey, creamy goodness you can gorge yourself on and then come back for seconds. . . in other words – delicious!



  1. I can't wait to read this. Amazing review :)

  2. this looks adorable hon! Awesome review! =D

  3. Great review, you captured all the things that are great about this book :) I can't wait for Lola and Isla

  4. Ahh, this is another awesome review for Anna and the French Kiss. So well articulated! I absolutely can't wait to read this one :D

  5. i loved the family dynamic too - and the nicholas sparks thing was so completely hilarious. i forgot to mention that in my review...


  6. Oh I'm so going to read this book :)

  7. Great review! I finished the book last night and loved it. It might be my new obsession.

  8. I really liked that Anna and Étienne's relationship isn't the instant over the top and madly in love that seems very common in young adult these days. It makes everything concerning how the feel about each other genuine. They're friends first and foremost. They learn about each other, their families, and everything else that goes into making a real and lasting relationship. It reminded me of falling love for the first time. It isn't always easy.

    As you can tell, I really loved this book. It made me giddy and wanting more. I can't wait to see what Stephenie Perkins has up her sleeve for us next!


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