October 14, 2013

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1)
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Release Date: December 2nd, 2010
Publisher: Dutton
Page Count: 372
Source: Purchased
Rating: Why did I wait so long to read this one? The level is goodness is through the roof.
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. She is less than thrilled about boarding school in Paris - until she meets √Čtienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, he has it all - including a serious girlfriend. Will Anna get her French kiss?

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

Anna's mostly absent father decides - just in time for Anna's senior year of high school, mind you - that his estranged daughter needs a bit of culture and, as such, should be sent off to boarding school in France. Anna, however, is not particularly interested in leaving her best friend and this cute boy she'd been flirting with all summer. But she doesn't really have a choice. So she goes and meets St. Clair (among other people) and greatness ensues.

Let's break this down:

This is one of those books you really won't want to put down once you start. I made the mistake of starting this one late at night. I could only read a few chapters before I was too tired to keep going and then I woke up the next day and devoured the rest.

So, why is this book so devour-able?

First of all, the book is set in PARIS. I shouldn't have to keep telling you guys how much I swoon whenever that particular city is mentioned, but I do and I love. So much.

I also really like that Anna's into movies. And I like her reasons for being into movies and her goals regarding her desire to review movies. The whole thing is kind of enlightened and different than the usual. Which isn't to say that the usual hobbies are great too. I love that these leading ladies are into sport or art or writing. But the obsession with movies and movie reviewing struck me as particularly interesting and unique. (Unless I'm forgetting some book or other. But I don't think I am.)

Now, aside from having awesome hobbies, Anna makes for a great narrator. She's witty and stubborn and brilliant. I can't count the number of times when she said or did something and I felt like I might say or do the same exact thing. Her voice is so honest and true to what teenage life can (un)fortunately be sometimes that it's kind of refreshing (especially when we live in a time of bookish insta-love and complete character 180s).

And on top of the awesome setting and fantastic protagonist, there's also the incredible emotional situations this book produces. At the beginning you kind of want someone to tell Anna she can just go home and be with her best friend and this boy she likes. Then she gets to Paris and you really want Paris to work for her - especially with all these new people in her life. And THEN, after she does make new friends and things at home become a little less important (but never truly go away and are later revisted, which I like), things with said new friends get complicated.

I mean, really, this book probably would have been enough if it just dealt with the complicated St. Clair situation (y'know, him having a girlfriend at the start of the book and all of his family problems on top of all of Anna's family/back home drama). But then this book also picks up on the incredibly complicated dynamics found within a group of friends - the friend's Anna's made in Paris. So while I was consumed with rooting for Anna and St. Clair, I suddenly found myself conflicted (but not actually because HELLO: Anna + St. Clair = Forever) because of this issue or that character.

The bottom line here, I think, is that this book just felt so real to me. The characters of this book are actual people and this is an account of what happened to them. It's a fair, honest, ugly, exciting, emotional tale and it's oh so perfect both as a light summer read but also maybe something a little bit more introspective (I mean, it's not super heavy, but it might make you think about the intricacies of your own personal relationships). It's the kind of book that I'll definitely want to read again, just based off the post-reading feelings alone.

(And also based on how adorable Anna and St. Clair are.)

The long and short of it?

Plot: Loved, loved, loved every second of it
World Building: Boarding school books let so much insanity happen, but I also like that this book had some time at home with parents and structure too.
Character Development: Oh Anna. Everything you go through in this book just makes you so much more fantastic and lovable at the end. St. Clair also becomes more and more awesome throughout the book. Which almost seems impossible. But it's not.
Prose: It's a light, easy to read first personal narrative that might have a little bit of annoying OMG-type prose, but none of that matters because it's completely devour-able.
Would I Recommend This Book?: Love contemporary? Drop everything and pick this book up right now. This book is also really good for people who also love movies, Paris, complex family dynamics and all things awesome. (So, basically, everyone worth talking to.)

Since I'm pretty much the last person on the planet to love and read this one, please feel free to gush with me over this book in the comments below. (Especially if you're gushing about Anna + St. Clair = Forever.)