Can Anna find love in the City of Light?
Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for? – Goodreads
NOTE: Occasionally I read a YA book that causes me to feel the need to point out that while I read and review a lot of YA books on this blog, I am, in fact, no longer a young adult. Most of the time this has little bearing on my enjoyment of YA books – I’m pretty good at picking those that will appeal to a more mature audience. And I always remember the intended audience as I’m reading and cut some slack accordingly. But when I’m writing a review, I’m going to be honest about my reading experience with the book, including elements that were problematic for me because I have more years of experience and am (arguably) a bit more mature than your typical teenager. So here’s your reminder that this as an adult review of a YA book.
I got pretty much what I expected with this book – a light, entertaining, not overly complex (either in terms of character development or plot) book set in Paris. The story is about Anna, the daughter of a famous author who writes books for sentimental romantics that have been very successful (I imagined him as being kind of like Nicholas Sparks). Perhaps in part because of his success and ability to enjoy the finer things in life, he decides it would be a great idea to send Anna to an American boarding school – in Paris.
And I guess this is the first thing that pissed me off a little bit. She’s not at all excited about it. In fact, she whines and bitches and complains about it. Which, I know, is pretty believable for a teenager. There were some great opportunities my parents afforded me that I was sullen about because it didn’t fit in with my desire to hang out with a cute boy and go to parties. But reading this now, from the perspective of someone who’s spent more than a decade slogging through crap jobs, university and then paying back loans, the idea of someone – anyone – sneering at the opportunity to spend a year in Paris?
So that made me a bit reticent to jump into Anna’s corner too quickly. But she came around to Paris – and I came around to her. Mostly. The story quickly becomes about her crush on Étienne St. Clair – the gorgeous, (British-accented *swoon*), most popular guy in school. Who just happens to be dating Ellie, an older girl who graduated that year and is now in college in Paris. So from the beginning of the book he’s taken. Which is not what I expected – I thought maybe he’d be too cool for her and then slowly get to know her or something – but he’s actually involved with someone else.
But then again, so is Anna – a guy back home she kissed before leaving for Paris. It’s less serious, granted, but there’s still something there for her. So there are these two overlapping love triangles. I wish I could say more, because how everything goes down left me with really mixed feelings.
I feel like this was the one thing I had a big problem with. I find stories like this hard. I know it’s realistic – love is complicated, and I get that. It’s easy to end up in a situation you don’t know how to resolve without hurting someone, particularly when you’re young and inexperienced. But that doesn’t make it any easier to read about. I have a really hard time rooting for two people to get together when they’re otherwise involved, even if they’re the protagonists, even if they “belong together” and even if the other person or people are painted as being sub-par partners. Because I have enough life experience to know it’s rarely that simple, and that no one deserves to be treated like that, even if the relationship isn’t happy.
So I had a really hard time rooting for Anna and Étienne to get together because of Ellie. Though her character isn’t very well developed and she’s purposely kept as a one-dimensional, unlikeable character, so it’s easy to dismiss her and just want her out of the way. That’s unfair to her, and it makes Étienne and Anna come off as pretty schmuck-ish in my estimation.
I will admit that this probably comes largely from my own bias – I have a really hard time with betrayal and throw-away characters. Not everyone has this problem, particularly when it comes to romantic fiction, which is probably why so many people loved this book and had no problem rooting for St. Clair and Anna.
Personal bias aside, the book was enjoyable. It didn’t have a ton of depth, but it was a fun read. It curbed the cravings of my literary sweet tooth, and there were moments that I really enjoyed. Plus, Paris. So y’know.
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Published By: Speak
Released: Aug. 4, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Romance