Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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 Etienne St. Clair: 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?


I wasn't going to read this book. Really, I wasn't. The title of this book alone is enough to make me run screaming in the opposite direction. And the cover art? Is even worse--I'm not your stereotypical girl in that I don't dream of visiting Paris, for any reason, ever. Though I can't help but admit that all positive reviews from trusted Goodreaders did make me a little curious. I mean, it sounded like this book was a really fun YA romance. But for me YA & Romance are never a good match. The vast majority of YA romances are gag-worthy and cause me to sigh with frustration and/or roll my eyes a lot until I finally chuck them across the room because I've got a migraine.

This past summer I was vacationing with my stepdaughter and she was looking for a fluff-tastic read. Knowing I read quite a bit she asked if I had any suggestions. Since I don't really do fluff I couldn't think of anything besides Unearthly, which she promptly gobbled up and begged for more. Then I remembered a number of my GR friends seemed to like this book and I figured it would be right up her alley as well, so I purchased it.

That was way back in July. And my stepdaughter never got around to reading this book because she was suddenly too busy text messaging her stupid ex-boyfriend (I'm not kidding. The guy is a freaking moron, though I digress). Since then my copy of Anna and the French Kiss has been gathering dust because I didn't get around to returning it before the 14-day grace period for returning books to Barnes & Noble was up.

Then the tenth anniversary of 9/11 snuck up on me and I fell to pieces--I mean, completely freaked out. See, I typically prepare myself for this time of year, make a point to avoid footage or pictures from that day. But, yeah, without really thinking things through I decided I was ready, that I would be okay. Now that the tenth anniversary has come and gone, I'm fairly certain I'll never be ready for any of that, ever.

Anyway, by Sunday night I was in the midst of having an nasty anxiety attack that was only increasing in it's severity. I needed something--anything!--to divert my attention, so I found refuge within the pages of Anna and the French Kiss, the fluffiest novel I own. I'm not going to lie to you, it helped.

Right away I could tell I was probably going to like it. The first paragraph sucked me right in because it reminded me of a cheeky little game my husband and I play where we name every stereotype we know about other countries (we're lame, I know). I liked the opening paragraph so much I then read it to my husband and it brought a small smile to his weary face as well.

Check it out:

"Here's everything I know about France: Madeline and Amélie and Moulin Rouge. The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, although I have no idea what the function of either actually is. Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, and a lot of kings named Louis. I'm not sure what they did either, but I think it has something to do with the French Revolution, which has something to do with Bastille Day. The art museum is called the Louvre and it's shaped like a pyramid and the Mona Lisa lives there along with that statue of that woman missing her arms. And there are cafés or bistros or whatever they call them on every street corner. And mimes. The food is supposed to be good, and the people drink a lot of wine and smoke a lot of cigarettes.

I've heard they don't like Americans, and they don't like white sneakers."

That's just awesome, right? My husband and I particularly loved the bit about mimes. We even added to the list--"Black and white striped shirts", "red scarves", "Berets", "people gnawing on baguettes Regina George style" (see: Mean Girls. And yes, we totally made this one up because we amuse ourselves in the most idiotic of ways), "people pretending they don't speak English", "Escargot!" and so on...

After we finished proving our ignorance to one another I read on.

All-in-all Anna and the French Kiss was a pretty good read. It's not the sort of book I usually pick up, or enjoy, but I liked well enough. It's kind of fun to be inside Anna's head because she's got a quirky personality. Her exchanges with St. Clair are, for the most part, fairly amusing and remind me of the sort of silly and/or ridiculous conversations my husband and I have when we're alone.

That said, I did feel like the story was a tad bit disjointed. The first half of the book is written in such a way that I continuously forgot I was reading a fluffy YA romance, which I really appreciated. The second part of the book is pretty much all fluff, which was alright(-ish). I mean, I could have done without some of the angst (most of which was unnecessary, by the way), and I didn't particularly care for the fact that Anna pretty much becomes a mental patient for the second half of the story, nor did I care much for (view spoiler)

The ending was pretty good, though, which I appreciated. It even has a sweet message, ends on a positive note.

Anyway, because Anna and the French Kiss provided a much needed escape when I needed it most, and because it's much better then most (or even all) fluffy YA romances I've read I'm going to go ahead give it four stars, even though it probably only deserves three. I recommend this to anyone looking for a good fluffy YA romance and/or a quick escape from reality.