Oh-la-la! In Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Anna is exiled to Paris by her Nicholas Sparks-esque writer father, for some reason. She doesn’t want to be there since it’s her last year of high school, she just kissed the boy she’s been crushing on, and she doesn’t like doing anything her father wants her to do. Fortunately, at the boarding school she quickly makes friends and joins a small clique which includes Etienne St Clair, or St Clair as he’s known. He’s dreamy with his British accent and French name.
Anna falls for this guy even though she’s got a guy on the back burner at home and St Clair has a long term (for high school) girl friend. Does he like her back? Will he dump the old ball and chain for her? Will someone please exile me to Paris?
Okay, so it was important to keep in mind that these are young people and they’re like toddlers learning to walk when it comes to relationships. They have to fall down a bunch of times before they get it right. So, when Anna and St Clair take turns being A-holes, I had to remember that they are young. Every time I wanted to kick one of them, I remembered all the dumb, dumb things I did as a teen and felt my patience return.
I would have been all over this as a teen, just like I was with Shakespeare and Legs, and even now I thought it was charming and sweet. Yes, St Clair is a bit too good to be true but that’s what romance is for. Anna thinks everything he does is wonderful and uses “beautiful” as an adjective for him a million times. I’d have to be made of stone though to fault her. She’s one smitten kitten. Ah, amour de jeunesse!
There is lots of dramaz, with sobbing in bathroom stalls, and best friends breaking apart, betrayals, and even cancer to ramp it up even more. Then there is Paris! Can I be Anna just to spend a year in Paris? And the girl doesn’t even appreciate it at first. I know, I know… last year in high school and all that. I would probably pout about that too. And can I just say, wouldn’t Anna, the big movie buff, have used, I don’t know, the Internet to find out about the film culture of Paris? Was she so focused on being stubborn about leaving home she wasn’t even curious about that? That was a bit of a stretch for me.
Anna’s return home and the realization that life has gone on without her felt realistic. Anna cannot help but to have changed herself as well. The brief time away from home causes unexpected consequences. It’s a bittersweet scene.
A couple of things that bothered me about the story though: A) Meredith. She’s only a part of the plot when convenient. I didn’t find that she was a fleshed out character. Sure, we all want to be an Anna but usually we’re a Meredith, am I right? B) Lack of adult supervision. The teens, most not yet 18, are left to their own devices with boys and girls hopping out of each other’s rooms all night long. Is this standard practice? Seems a bit too convenient for the plot.
Anna and the French Kiss is not without its problems but Perkins writes a solid story. I believed the emotions of the characters and the pacing is just right. It’s a bright, fun read, not too deep but lovely. There is a few swears, talk of sex, and drinking, if you need to know.
About the Audio: Kim Mai Guest narrates Anna and the French Kiss. She has a very young sounding voice, in fact she’s done quite a bit of voice work for video games and cartoons. She’s a good fit for Anna.