3.13.2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

I woke up today thinking, holy smoley, I need to write a blog post. What happened to my New Year's Resolution to post nearly daily? What a blogging fail.

I think life is moving too quickly for me (whaaa? I'm going to graduate from high school soon? I'm going to college?!), but also horrifically slowly (why do the days drag by slower than snails?).

I really should blog to fill that time up.

Anyways, a few weeks ago I was hyperventilating over Anna and the French Kiss. Reviews were uniformly glorious. I hopped to Book Depository, ordered, and it soon showed up on my door step, wrapped and bundled up. I read it last week.

Which brings me to this present day. Lately I've been feeling a bit deflated because, *drum roll* I gave up chocolate for lent. WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF HOW COULD I GIVE UP MY TITULAR LOVE? NOOO000oooo!!!. So far, this has NOT been going well. *is in chocolate withdrawal*

*rolls around in pain and heartache*

*soul cries out*

Ahem.

Review time.

Book Summary:

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 √Čtienne St. Claire: 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?

My Opinion:

Anna and the French Kiss starts out slow. In particular, the first three chapters drag by at a glacial pace, as the narrator busies herself with filling in backstory. However, the novel soon picks up speed, and by the end manages to overcome most of its flaws and standout as one of YA's funnest romance reads of the year.

I am jealous of Anna. Oh, how I wish that my parents had packed me off to boarding school in history-soaked Paris, bakery goods and beautiful architecture everywhere, the ambiance of another country to fill my days. An experience like that would have quite honestly made my life, so at first I could not relate to the homesickness and resentful moping Anna felt as she acclimated to her new environment. Of course, many teenage girls would feel the same way as her and all in all, Anna is a pretty realistic character, which is the most important thing. I appreciated that she had a real passion--film--in her life, and ambitions to become something when she was older. I appreciated that her dialogue wasn't stilted or forced, that she thought like a teenage girl, that she had insecurities and flaws that added to her characterization. Above all, I found her relatable and likable, if a bit humdrum.

I'm not so sure about the other characters though. I know that Etienne is supposed to the ultimate love interest, but I didn't really care for him. He seemed a little too, I don't know, perfect. How many teenage boys exist like him? I really think they're a rare, if not extinct, breed. But I guess a suspension of belief on my part is needed, and the fact that he seems like a relatively caring, sweet person really negates a lot of the realism problems. The thing is, though, that as the story progressed, and Anna fell more and more in love with him, to the point of blind devotion, I couldn't help but wonder how unreliable Anna is with her observations of him. We're presented with this perfect semblance of a teenage guy: nice hair, an English accent, extremely intelligent, caring. Yet, his actions are anything but. If you pause and really think about him objectively-- fuzzy descriptions aside-- he's actually quite a jerk. He strings Anna along (a later explanation of continuous misunderstandings didn't really convince me) for much of the book. He flirts with other girls. He basically is leading Anna on, while he has a serious girlfriend that he won't break up with. I have to ask, isn't that cheating? Isn't breaking up with the girl you're not in love with anymore the decent thing to do before you start gallivanting around town?

I don't know, that just strikes me as a horrid thing to do, whatever Anna tells me.

This book posed a few interesting questions for me as a reader. Am I just not a romance reader, since I often find such issues with the idealized guy? Am I just cynical? Is the devotion Anna has in anyway similar to the devotion paranormal main characters have for their immortal boyfriends that I find so troubling? How do you differentiate between love and obsession?

I think I mostly got the impression of love out of Anna and the French Kiss. What really saved the book was the gradual development of the relationship, the fact that they were friends first, that Anna helps Etienne through a hard time because she cares about him, not because he's got a pretty face. I think what separates this book from most YA romance is the fact that the relationship is mostly based on the two's actions for each other, not how hot or physically attracted they are to each other.

And that makes all the difference.

The one thing I thought was unrealistic: the college application process described. The timing was way off for when Anna got her acceptances, unless she got early notification, and it really wasn't explained at all, or explained vaguely. I found it strange that Anna kinda underhandedly decided about the whole thing without telling the reader about it. I mean, if you're going to move from Paris across to the other side of the country that you're normally from, I think that'd factor into your thoughts during senior year. At least a little bit, I'd hope.

Ultimately, as much as a I complain, I can't deny that I had a wonderful time reading the book, and was caught up in the romance and most of all, her experience in Paris. Perkins has a gift for making her main character really develop, though many of the secondary characters did not come to life and were not as well-formed as Anna. I loved that Anna grew out of her hermitly ways and really blossomed. It was quite a nice thing to read about, and the relationship portrayed was endlessly complicated and interesting.

My Rating: 8.25/10. A good book, overall. I appreciated the many barbs against Nicholas Sparks types (ie Anna's Dad), too.
ETA: I think most readers will enjoy it more than I did, so yes, I do recommend it :)