Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

by Linna Lee

From the back: Anna was 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. So she’s less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books that either dodge the realities of going to school, or circumvent it by throwing in some kicker: character leads a secret life, has supernatural talents, is involved with someone with supernatural talents, lives in a future where “school” is irrelevant/unimportant…etc. Writers are SO GOOD at coming up with excuses for why their characters aren’t in school. Because, I guess, school is…less interesting compared to living life as a WEREWOLF/WITCH/WHAT HAVE YOU?

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is all about Anna’s life at an international American school. It was a trip abroad for Anna, and it was a trip for me. It reminded me that life doesn’t need the drama of impending death and the supernatural to be completely absorbing and thrilling. There’s romance and friendship and boy problems, and it’s all narrated with Anna’s sharp wit. This is so much more than a cute, fluffy romance. Anna’s story packed a strong punch that had me laughing throughout, and ok, even crying a little in a few places.

Anna’s thought process and reactions are hilarious, and her voice carried the entire book (like when she’s embarrassed, I was in mortified agony, too). I loved seeing Paris through Anna’s eyes and reading about the new friendships she makes. I want to be Anna’s friend! She’s human and flawed: When she’s whiny or oblivious or on the edge of making bad choices, she was still funny and likable. I was cheering for her throughout the entire book. Moments that could have been cheesy were moving scenes that tugged at my heartstrings.

Of course, I have to (HAVE TO!!!) talk about the boy she falls for. Oh, St. Clair. Etienne St. Clair is swoon-worthy. Anna’s first reaction to him: French name, English accent, American school. Anna confused. Her relationship with this “English French American Boy Masterpiece” is the kind of love story WE ALL WANT FOR OURSELVES. Midway through the book, they part ways for Christmas break, so they keep in touch through emails and phone calls. The separation of characters can sometimes be a lull in a story – not so here, because some of my favorite Anna and St. Clair moments took place in their long-distance correspondence.

This is not only one of my favorite contemporary YA books, but one of my favorite YA books ever. And I cannot wait to read the companion novels to follow (or really, anything by Stephanie Perkins): Lola and the Boy Next Door (September 29, 2011) and Isla and the Happily Ever After (Fall 2012).

Lee likes all things spy, smelling books, and is almost always craving a cheeseburger. She tweets from @lkyim about reading books NOT assigned for class. Also she likes Greek mythology. And dogs.

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