“Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

I plan to collect all three books in the series.
I plan to collect all three books in the series.

I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. I picked it up on a whim. I’d heard about it often and was curious and wanted something else to read. I downloaded a sample on my Nook App, bought it on my Kindle app (random, I know), and was hooked from the moment it began.

Quick summary:

Anna thought that she would spend her senior year of high school getting closer to her crush, who she works with her at a movie theatre in Atlanta, and hanging out with her best friend. But her father surprises her when he announces that she’ll spend her senior year at the School of America…in Paris (SOAP).

At first, Anna dreads what would happen at her boarding school since she’s new to both the school and the country, but she quickly makes friends and just as quickly develops a crush on a cute French boy with an English accent from America, Etienne St. Clair. Unfortunately, St. Clair has a girlfriend, but Anna can’t shake her feelings for him and the more they hang out, the stronger her feelings grow until they become….complicated.

But she has lots to learn in Paris, about the city and herself. Though cautious at first, her friends coax her to venture out in the city, where she finds that she shares a love of films with it. And as her relationships develop and become more difficult, she learns that things aren’t always as she perceives them to be.

My thoughts:

I’ll say it again: I absolutely enjoyed this book. I had to repeat that because I was surprised that I did. I hardly read young-adult contemporary novels and since this one has romance in it, I thought it would be sappy like some of the romance I find in young-adult fantasy novels, which it was but I wasn’t turned off by it. Actually, Anna, her feelings and situation, were sometimes relatable, and I couldn’t help sympathizing with her when things got difficult with St. Clair.

What drew me in was the narration. Anna tends to overthink things, which makes her a little dramatic, but it works for this story. It’s humorous and it hooked me. My thoughts tend to go overboard as well when I’m emotional or nervous so that connection helped increase my interest in the story.

The dialogue between Anna and St. Clair is also great. The content is mature sometimes, immature other times, but still engaging. While reading their banter, I couldn’t help thinking of The Fault in Our Stars because I hate the dialogue in it, didn’t like the characters either, and I think Perkins did a much better job. Why did I think of TFiOS? Probably because it’s one of the very, very, count-on-one-hand, few young-adult contemporary novels I’ve read so my mind jumped to the one book it could quickly find that’s of a similar genre. TFiOS characters sounded as if they were trying to be adults, while Anna and St. Clair sounded their age.

As for Anna and St. Clair’s relationship, it’s frustrating. The reader can tell that they are both attracted to each other pretty early on and that St. Clair needs to leave his girlfriend because the spark between them has fizzled out, but it takes a while for that to happen and Anna’s hopes — which intensifies the plot in some places — lead to deep let-downs that really frustrated this reader who wanted the characters to get together already. I don’t approve of cheating so though it hurts, I much rather St. Clair had told his girlfriend the truth from early on and then go be happy with Anna. Of course, that wouldn’t help the story’s pacing at all and would have ruined the telling.

The frustration that Anna feels wasn’t a bad thing because it’s exactly how one would feel if one were in Anna’s situation (I can relate). She should be frustrated by St. Clair’s inability to accept his feelings for her and commit to them instead of flirting with her and then flitting away to his girlfriend. And I like that the reader is easily swept up in those emotions and experiences how such situations are: being in love with someone who clearly loves you back but don’t know what to do about it. My favorite part of the story is when the conflicts become untangled and especially when Anna realizes that she was being unfair to her best friend (though I agree with her when she got angry at her best friend for what she had done). It all wraps up well.

Compared to Talon, the characters in this story are much more mature though they are of the same age group. Talon and this book are completely different stories but I can’t help comparing them since I read them around the same time. The character development is what really stuck out, though, because the characters in Talon are really shallow in comparison to Anna and her bunch. Also, I found the characters in Anna and the French Kiss much more believable than Talon, where many of the characters are one-dimensional.

Speaking of characters, I love the description of Anna’s father in the first couple pages. Anna is so critical when she speaks of him, and Perkins’ description of him makes me think of Nicholas Sparks. Was that her intention? I could not get Nicholas Sparks’ face out of my head whenever I thought of Anna’s dad and his ridiculous books that somehow come out well on screen.

I also liked how Perkins incorporates the themes of the novels that the characters read for class into the story. And she didn’t even take the clichéd route of The Scarlet Letter, though that theme was touched on. One that she focuses on is how our perception of people and events are affected by our experiences, our history. She draws this from a discussion on translations, how a piece is translated is affected by the translator’s background, which influences how the translator perceives the original text and writes the translated piece. And I like how that little lesson ties into Anna’s relationship with her friends, especially her best friend.

Now, I’m not familiar with high-school boarding schools but the setup for SOAP seems more like a dorm to me since both guys and girls are housed in the same building with a college-aged dude to supervise them all. That didn’t ring true for me but then again, I’ve never been to a boarding school. It would make more sense if the characters were in college because dorms can be organized as such. But it works for the story so I wasn’t much bothered by how unlikely it seemed. But because of this structure for the dorms, and the lack of supervision, some of the students obviously engage in sexual activities, which isn’t presented outright but is alluded to in the story. There is also underaged drinking but I don’t much mind that for those high-schoolers. Neither do the French, apparently.

Overall: ★★★★☆

Anna and the French Kiss is a well-written, well-structured story and I like it. It’s a quick, fun read, and it seems like a story you can return to and still enjoy. I just reread the first chapter and found myself getting engrossed in the story again. So if you’re looking for something light to read this summer while chilling on the beach or lazing by the pool, I suggest you give Anna and the French Kiss a try.

Quotes from the book:

“The translator, no matter how true he thinks he’s staying to the text, still brings his own life experiences and opinions to the decisions he makes. Maybe not consciously, but every time a choice is made between one meaning of a word or another, the translator determines which one to use based on what he believes is correct, based on his own personal history with the subject.”

“It’s strange. Home. How I could wish for it for so long, only to come back and find it gone. To be here, in my technical house, and discover that home is now someplace different. But that’s not quite right either. I miss Paris, but it’s not home….Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

6 thoughts on ““Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

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