Anna and the French Kiss is the latest in a string of YA novels that I've been glutting down lately, because apparently I'm in that kind of mood. It's also by far the most romantic thing I've read in awhile, which is really saying something.
Anna's parents force her to attend a boarding school for American students in Paris. At first, she's angry and beyond panicked to be left alone in a foreign country. But she quickly falls in with a tight knit group of friends. Best of all, she meets Etienne St. Clair, an English/American, French speaking, all around gorgeous and friendly boy...who is, unfortunately, in a relationship. Faced with feelings they cannot act upon, Anna and St. Clair become best friends, supporting each other through a year of emotional turmoil. All the while, Anna falls more deeply in love with him, and is tormented by the question: Does he feel the same?
I'm a sucker for the "friends first" kind of love stories. Something similar actually happened to me--I met me now fiance when we were both in relationships, so we were friends for months before it was able to become something more. For me, that's what makes Anna and Etienne's relationship so great. They tease, laugh, get to know one another, support one another through tough stuff, face all of the problems that real friends face. The hopeless love is just the icing on the cake of the amazing friendship fairytale for me.
Anna makes a charming narrator. She's incredibly easy to relate to. Shy at first, a bit helpless, just waiting to be dragged out of her shell. And when she finally does start to gain some independence and confidence, you cheer her on all the way.
I liked that all of the characters had flaws and personal issues. Usually YA authors muck things up by making their characters too perfect, or giving them token flaws--"She's clumsy!" "He's overprotective!" But Perkins dodges that bullet. Anna has some genuine social issues, and doesn't seem to really know how to handle relationships. Etienne has a morbid fear of change and uncertainty that paralyses him in many ways. They both have daddy issues. They both have bad teeth. Like real people.
It's set in freaking Paris. That's never been really high on my list of vacation spots but God, I want to go there now! The food alone...I swear, some paragraphs were pure food porn that had my mouth watering like mad.
The happy ending is so late in the book! I felt a little sad at the end, because I really wanted to see more of Anna and Etienne happy and together. I like sappiness, and there just wasn't quite enough for my tastes.
I also felt really freaking bad for Etienne's girlfriend, Ellie. She's written to come across as kind of aloof and bitchy, so that maybe readers won't feel too bad for her, but I still did. Having been cheated on, I have trouble forgiving guys that come even close to being unfaithful and, well...It goes back to the fact that Etienne is written like a real guy who does real dumb guy things. I like this, but still--poor Ellie.
Any contemporary romance fan would like this. It's not a really "young" sort of YA, but there's nothing graphic either, so I feel safe recommending it to both teen and adult audiences. The author has a great voice, the characters are likeable, the setting is fantastic, and the romance is fresh and fun. 4.5 stars.
Buy from Amazon: Anna and the French Kiss