Posted by: Megan | 01/18/2011

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

I’ve followed Stephanie Perkins’ blog for a little over half a year now. She’s a very cool person, and her posts are always entertaining. Plus her hair is streaked blue. (I admit, that’s the reason I sought out her blog in the first place, ha!) She’s really funny, genuine, endearing, and understandably excited about having her first novel published. That excitement is infectious and I’ve been happy for her and her success for a long time now, as well as very curious about her book. It was finally released at the end of last year (such a long wait!) but I couldn’t get my hands on it until very recently. I had no idea what to expect, but what I got was definitely something special.

The first thing I’d like to comment on is the style of writing. While I have seen resemblances before, I’ve never really found an author with a truly noticeable, unique, and enjoyable style, to the point where I could blindly pick up a book and start reading and think, “Hey, is this a ____ novel?” Now I think I’ve found my first. I love the way Perkins writes, and you can even see it in her blog posts. It’s hilarious and charming and entertaining. But now to the book:

I know the plot isn’t brand new, but it was still done very well. Perkins makes everything unique and special, and I believe she could do something just as unique and special with any overdone storyline. This book was never boring and I just couldn’t put it down. All of the characters are great and they interact so realistically, with just the right amount of drama to keep you compelled. The romances and the complications that prevent them are just perfect; they didn’t drag on and make me frustrated, but instead lasted in the right way that kept me longing. The use of setting was fantastic; it was great to learn such interesting things about France along with Anna, led be Étienne, who made things even more entertaining. Perkins brings Paris to life for us and shows us the little places that would get overshadowed by the big monuments if we were to book a trip by ourselves.

Anna and the French Kiss is a character-driven book — and this is not a bad thing. Characters are always the biggest thing for me in any form of entertainment, and this story is populated by many varied, well-written people. I immediately felt a connection to Anna and the more I got to know her the more I wanted to be her friend. She’s funny, though most of the time unintentionally so, seeing how she has a tendency to overreact and expect the worst. An example, only a few paragraphs in:

And I still can’t believe she’s separating me from my brother, Sean, who is only seven and way too young to be left home alone after school. Without me, he’ll probably be kidnapped by that creepy guy down the road who has dirty Coca-Cola towels hanging in his windows. Or Seany will accidentally eat something containing Red Dye #40 and his throat will swell up and no one will be there to drive him to the hospital. He might even die. And I bet they wouldn’t let me fly home for his funeral and I’d have to visit the cemetery alone next year and Dad will have picked out some god-awful granite cherub to go over his grave.

Although she’s not usually quite as morbid.

The people around Anna are just as interesting and unique as she is and I loved every interaction they shared. A big problem I’ve found in most books is that side characters don’t develop; they’re flat to start with, and they remain flat until the end. Not so in this book. Every person is a person, with personalities, good traits and bad traits, likes and dislikes, and flaws. Each of them grows and learns and changes, especially Anna and Étienne.

Anna and Étienne are far from perfect. Physically, they both have faults by modern beauty’s standards — including their shared lack of orthodontia, to quote Anna — but there’s far more than that. They have imperfections in themselves: they have bad traits; they do and say things that are hurtful; but even more moving than that is that they acknowledge these facts. They realize and tell each other when something they’ve done was wrong — and they accept it and try to change it. It’s very difficult to admit your own faults and wrongdoings, and Anna feels that just like everyone else, but she does accept it and makes an effort to make things right. That’s incredibly admirable, and takes a lot of guts. These things are what made the book have such a huge impact on me.

Anna is a fantastic heroine. She’s real and smart and loyal and funny, but she faces tough decisions and struggles with herself and has moments of vulnerability, just like everyone else — yet, she doesn’t need to be rescued. In fact, she does a bit of rescuing of her own. Étienne is a fantastic hero. He’s a genuinely kind guy who values his friends and relationships, but struggles with his family life — and he doesn’t let it turn him into a bad person. He has intense fears that he has to face, but more importantly he’s willing to face them.

This book is incredibly relatable, to everyone, on so many levels. If you’ve ever grown up, been in love, dealt with problem/frustrating parents, acted stupid, felt alone, uncertain, or jealous, then you’ll find something for you in this story. It made me feel really good — and it made me feel strong. Nobody’s perfect, and that’s okay.

Something specific and not exactly story-related I want to mention is that I’m pretty picky when it comes to YA romance novels. I don’t like an overabundance of sexuality in my reading as a personal preference, and admittedly I was a little worried about what this book might contain — as I always am — but I was pleasantly surprised with how the author handled such personal things. It was realistic but certainly not over the top, and very refreshingly different. That’s all I’ll say because I want everyone to find out for themselves. :)

Like any good book, Anna and the French Kiss made me cry when it was over, simply because it was over. I miss Anna and Étienne! I’d highly recommend this to everyone who’s a fan of the genre, and even if you don’t much care for YA romance I’d still suggest you give it a shot because the characters really are great. I loved it.

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