Anna Oliphant knows she should be thrilled at her famous novelist father’s less-than-optional offer to send her to an expatriate boarding school in Paris. But the idea of leaving her best friend Bridgette, her mom and little brother, and her coworker Toph, who was finally starting to like her back, during her senior year no less, feels more like crisis than adventure. However, when she arrives at the beautiful and prestigious School of America, Anna finds a city ripe for the exploring, new friends who welcome her into their circle, the all-too-gorgeous and all-too-takenÉtienne St. Clair (who has a British accent!!), and a year full of more excitement than she’s had in her past seventeen years put together. It’s boarding school in Paris; could you expect less?
I read this book after hearing blogger after blogger speak of their love for it, and I wasn’t disappointed. I really liked, probably even loved this book. What made it so good was the details of the love story, the love interest, St. Clair (*fangirl screaming*), and the icing on the cake, or maybe more like the toast under the jam: the Paris setting, which was so fun! I loved all of Anna and co.’s adventures in the city, visiting little bakeries, dancing to French punk rock, wishing on the mosaic star outside Notre Dame, and of course, trying out different movie theaters. Anna’s love of film really fleshed her out and made her interesting. She wants to be a famous film critic.
Anna and the French Kiss was one of the most mechanically solid romance books I’ve read in a long time. An unfortunate plague of the romance genre is that too often you get cheap, unpolished writing, and I end up distracted from the story by the need to shout “yeah, that was implied! You didn’t have to state it explicitly!” “That metaphor was stupid!” “Nobody really talks like that”, etc. Stephanie Perkins’ writing disappeared, which is exactly what it should do. It flowed like melty butter, and allowed me to lose myself in the action and the emotions.
St. Clair is unbearably hot. That’s all there is to say about it. And haters of insta-love should have no problem with Anna and the French Kiss– Stephanie Perkins really put in a lot of effort to depict the details of Anna and St. Clair’s relationship, making it very clear what they see in each other. All of their conversations and escapades were so unfailingly fun and heart-melting to read. I loved it all.
Anna and her friends were all very lifelike and believable teenagers. They all seemed like people I might have actually met at some point (for some reason, Anna’s friend Josh especially stands out to me as believable and reminiscent of real people I know. Does anybody else feel that way?). Well, okay, maybe not St. Clair, because if I had met him in real life, we would be engaged by now (unless boys 1-3 from my previous list of top fictional crushes were also real– I think he’s coming in at around #4). But even he wasn’t too far out of the realm of possibility. Yes, he was pretty darn perfect, but I haven’t given up hope yet that guys like that are out there, and more importantly, what’s a YA romance without a desperately swoon-worthy boy? One of the biggest villains of the story, Amanda, a typical high school ice queen who openly torments Anna for little reason other than jealousy for St. Clair, fell unfortunately into the stereotypical mean-popular-girl cliché; she could have used more dimension. Girls like that do exist, but why does she hate Anna so much so quickly, and how did she get to be so vile?
The book hit a rough patch for me in the later-middle section. *Warning: the following passage (colored purple) discusses events from the middle-to-end of the book and could be considered spoilerific.*It started in the scene where Anna sees St. Clair for the first time after returning from winter break, and has a sudden, violent realization of the fact that she’s in love with him— so violent that she literally, physically swoons, collapsing against a table and losing the ability to walk. Blech. Overkill. Then, her new feelings for him manifest themselves as her instantly no longer thinking of him as St. Clair, his last name which everyone calls him, but as Étienne, his first name. What? She’s only even heard his first name once, when he introduced himself the very first time they met. And she’s never called him by it, ever. Nobody besides teachers calls him that. It just seems bizarre and unnatural that she would be taken with a random whim to call him that as a result of loving him. And honestly, I like the name St. Clair a lot better. But moving on. The swooning, “Étienne” incident leads into about a hundred pages of drama, angst, and endless misunderstandings that probably could have been condensed and simplified. It was still fun to read, but after a while I wanted to scream “you love him. He loves you. Just be together already!” One or two cycles of complications could have been taken out. It got a little stretched-out.
But by the end of the book, the story had my awws and little arm-flaps going again. And I was left with a big brew of warm fuzzies in my stomach. Anna and St. Clair are a couple I believe could last a lifetime, and their story made me happy. Which is really all I ask from a book. It’s definitely going to stay with me for a long time.