Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Release Date: December 22, 2010
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 adore this book. There was something very endearing, something very realistic about the characters and the relationships that developed. By all means I should not have liked this book; mushy romances often embarrass me to read, and the cover just screams cutesy and cringe-worthy.
But have no worries! What is contained between these questionable covers is a perfectly swoon-worthy, believable romance. I loved watching Anna escalate between a silly, unreasonable girl with a crush and a girl that values herself too much to get walked all over by some boy. Because, I mean, as much as we (or is this just me?) like to pretend we aren't hopeless romantics, many of us fall prey to getting all melty and obsessed about the guys we like. But, unlike (many) other YA protagonists, that mindless, agent-less girl isn't the only layer to Anna. She's smart, passionate, and has a lot of self respect.
I have never had so much fun watching a relationship develop over the course of any story. And it did develop: wonderfully, slowly, without any of that love at first sight nonsense. I really felt like I could relate to Anna. I simultaneously hated St. Claire for being a wimp, and loved him so, so much that I was constantly ready to forgive him if he would ever make the brave choice. His banter is super sexy (though, truthfully, I'm not sure I could date someone shorter than me). I loved that the characters in the book weren't all described as one kind of drop-dead gorgeous or another (cough-take a hint YA authors-cough) but like normal people. The friends in this book--both ones at boarding school and at home--felt fleshed out. Every relationship in the book was imperfect somehow, but that didn't mean they weren't worthwhile, and that's what gave them a depth that is so rare in secondary characters.
And, oh my gosh! How can you resist a book set in Paris? I couldn't believe it when I read that Stephanie Perkins doesn't actually live there, because her descriptions of the city were a wonderful part of the landscape of the narrative without getting distracting or slowing the pace.
Stephanie Perkins is a craft master. I loved the way we moved through the school year, skimming over some parts, zooming in on others. The book is beautiful. The setting, beautiful. The friendships, the depiction of families, the emotions and romance all beautiful. Is the book light and young? Yes, but I think even older readers can find something to enjoy (heck, I made my mother read it, and she also had great things to say), therefore, I give Anna and the French Kiss 5 out of 5 Stars.
The audiobook was very cute, and Kim Mai Guest did an excellent job. The only objection I have was with her voice for St. Clair--he's supposed to be British for godsake, and her version sounded vaguely like a lisp--but truthfully, this was something that didn't bother me much after listening for a while. I would recommend this audiobook to any interested listeners.