Thursday 23 September 2010

Review - Anna & The French Kiss / Stephanie Perkins

Anna was 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. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris — until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, √Čtienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt. Goodreads.

Review - If this book were to have a pair of lips, I would be puckering up right about now.  Seriously.  I was losing hope that a contemporary romance could be authentic and deep, self-aware (but not bloated) and fun (without trying too hard) would show its face this year.  Perkins threw me a life raft in a sea of bitterness and allowed me to ride the swell of her fantastic debut.

Anna gets plonked in a French international boarding school for her senior year and she's less than pleased. She doesn't speak the language, she knows no one and she's left behind a possible love connection.  And with that the reader is off and running, swept away with a clipping pace that keeps the story propelling forward.  Perkins manages to have Anna tread the line of rational and harried, cautious and brave, confident and insecure creating an authentic and layered protagonist that all readers can empathise with.

Anna and the French Kiss is complex title that interweaves many teen issues yet avoids the "issue book" trap.  Whether an ugly parental separation, an absent friend, crushing on a taken boy, betrayal, homesickness and the difficulty in transplanting your life, it's all constructed with a light touch.  Different elements of Anna's life highlight another part and assist in her burgeoning personal growth and understanding the different between what is, what might have been and what can be.  As a reader with insight into boarding life and living internationally, I can say that Perkins could not have depicted the evolution of emotions more accurately.  You're scared, thrilled, trapped and eager all at the same time.  Even the funk is depicted accurately and humorously including being afraid to order food.  Been there, done that.  Still do occasionally.

In Etienne St Clair, Perkins has crafted a romantic interest that is fully formed as the protagonist. The guy isn't perfect.  He's flesh, blood, flaws and a whole heap of other things that tug him in a plethora of directions.  Anna and St Clair have a connection built on trust and friendship, it is the antithesis to the slam-bam-thank you-ma'am love connections that run rampant in current YA literature.  While their feelings might evolve, their friendship and support of one another is always at the forefront.  Instead of declaring their love for one another (over and over again) they have conversations about a variety of things, show interest in the other's passions and speak loud through their actions.  The relationship between Anna and St Clair is layered, even if romance weren't on the agenda it would still be an interesting pairing.

While Anna and the French Kiss is an introspective novel about growing up, testing your boundaries and being true to yourself, not all of it is internal. Perkins has supplied plenty of dialogue that flesh out a range of characters, main and supporting, giving them unique voices and making them distinct. What I admire the most is the independence of Anna.  She's a good friend and it's the conversations and lessons from these connections that are the foundation for the story but she's very much her own person.

Anna and the French Kiss takes the impossibility of an imagined connection and the pain of pining for someone who already belongs for another, jumbles then all up and adds a foreign language.  It is continental chaos!  Full of yearning, laughter and a touch of discord, Perkins has made her mark with great character beats, a genuine friendship and the minutiae that make overseas travel such a unique experience.

Anna and the French Kiss is a treat that should be dipped in chocolate so I can take a bite.  Many, many bites.

Published: December 4, 2010
Format: ARC, 384 pages
Publisher: Dutton
Source: publisher
Origin: USA


LinWash said...

I've read a lot of good things about this book. Like you, I've despaired about romance in contemporary YA fiction these days. I have to read a ton of YA fiction, because of my master's program. So, I feel your pain. I can't wait to read this book. BTW: I love your blog!

Erin said...

I've heard such great things about this book. I can't wait to read it. Contemporary (non-scifi/fantasy) YA are few and far between. Nice to see there's some good stuff to look forward to!

Angiegirl said...

Must have. Must.

Lisa_Gibson said...

I've heard some great buzz about this book. I'm looking forward to reading it. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Katy said...

Fantastic review, I'm so excited for this one I think everyone is.

Melissa said...

Want, want, want this book ever since Laini Taylor blogged about it. I figure if Laini loves it, and I love her than I will probably love it, too. Glad to know there's a good second opinion out there.

Katie (Bookishly Yours) said...

I'm so freaking excited for this book. I've not heard one bad things about it.

Meredith said...

I'm so, so, so excited for this book and this review just makes me want to read it even more. And eat some chocolate.

Jade said...

I am so intensely jealous of you. This the book I've been most looking forward to this year, but it doesn't come out to December. Which is cruel.

I'm glad you enjoyed it!!

kate.o.d said...

hmm. i'm interested, but still wary.

would you call it literary? literary YA is what i want to see more more more of.

if you had to compare this book with another, what would it be?

anna and the french kiss is out in aus in jan, for all you aussiekins.

Stephanie Perkins said...

Hi Adele,

I'm overwhelmed by this kind, generous, and thoughtful review. I'm so happy that you enjoyed Anna. THANK YOU.

— Steph

Chachic said...

This is the first review of this book that I've seen but since it looks like you loved it, I want it RIGHT NOW! I've added to my wishlist and I can't wait for it to be released.

Khy said...


And Kate.o.d if I may answer, I would say it's like the works Maureen Johnson with splashes of John Green and Lauren Myracle. And IT IS COMPLETELY AWESOME.

Lisa Schroeder said...

You are so good at articulating all the things I think/feel but don't know how to put into words!! Love this book for all the reasons you stated. I think Stephanie Perkins has a long, wonderful career ahead of her!!

sheisreading said...

Ooh, sounds great!

kate.o.d said...

coolio. thanks khy!

Mari - Escape In A Book said...

Outstanding review, Adele, I loved reading it and now I really want to read Anna and the French Kiss.

You could try spreading some chocolate sous on it and see how it tastes ;) Might be a bit on the dry side though.

Laura @ A Jane of All Reads said...

I agree with you that their friendship was what stood out- so much so that I could have been fine with it if that's all it ever turned in to.