Lauren Myracle (author of Peace, Love and Baby Ducks) wasn't wrong when she described Anna and the French Kiss as "richer, sweeter and hotter than a mug of rich, thick, hot chocolate". YUM. What a gorgeous read this is. It felt so comforting, like slipping into something more comfortable whenever I picked up the book.
Anna and the French Kiss centres around the main character Anna, a teenage girl who has been sent to a Parisian boarding school for her senior year, against her will, in order to broaden her horizons. Personally, I don't think this sounds like a bad deal but she doesn't want to leave her younger brother, her best friend or the guy she has just started hooking up with. Not to mention the fact that she doesn't speak the language and she's going to be on her own, in a foreign country. I can certainly understand how that would terrify her. But, everything changes when she meets the very attractive and charming Etienne St. Clair. There's just one problem...he has a long term girlfriend. But as the relationship between Anna and Etienne develops from acquaintances to best friends, is there something more between them? Will Anna get her French kiss?
Anna and the French Kiss took me right back to my days in sixth form college (16 -18 years old) when I slowly but surely fell in love with my best friend - who just so happened to have a girlfriend at the time. Despite this and the fact that his girlfriend went to a different college, he spent most of his time with me. I may be looking back through rose tinted spectacles but our relationship was near perfect. We could talk, really talk and we felt so comfortable with each other but I knew I could never have him. And in case you're wondering....we never kissed, although we came incredibly close to it. It was something to do with that guilty conscience of mine that stopped me from going any further. I'd never kissed anyone before and I hadn't even thought to be nervous about that. I guess when it feels right, it really does feel right. So, what I'm trying to say is that in a lot of ways I could relate to Anna and her feelings towards Etienne.
Speaking of Etienne, I liked the fact that although he was attractive (he has nice hair, apparently) and charming and popular, HE ISN'T PERFECT. His bottom teeth are crooked and he's vertically challenged. In fact, his height is mentioned several times. And emotionally speaking, he's definitely got flaws but who hasn't?! He was more real to me than most boys I read about in YA fiction and I really appreciated that. I don't know why but throughout the entire book, I could not help but picture James McAvoy as Etienne right from the start and I just couldn't see anyone else in that role.
Anna also had some physical imperfections like the gap between her front teeth and the stripe through her hair which was something unique to her character, I thought. Again, these individualisms only served to make the characters more real for me.
I really enjoyed the developing relationship between Anna and Etienne. It wasn't one of those instant "OMG you're my soul mate" type of things, as their relationship blossomed slowly and they became best friends which was beautiful to watch. I also liked the fact that Anna didn't fawn all over Etienne in the beginning like the other girls at school and probably Etienne had to like this too because it made her different from the rest.
I LOVE the messages jumping out of this book, especially about how important communication is and how funny it is that even though we speak the same language, sometimes we do not. The final lines are incredibly profound and I agree with their sentiment wholeheartedly. I'm really hoping that those people that normally skip to the end just to have a sneaky peek are NOT going to do that because you will miss the meaning behind the words. Trust me on this and read from beginning to end. It's worth it.
I have to say that from reading this book, I've never loved the idea of going to Paris more. Anna's whole adventure was romantic and exciting - although she certainly didn't see it like that to begin with. One of my favourite movies of all time is Sabrina and this book had a touch of Sabrina about it for me. I wish I could go back to my teenage years and spend a transformative year of my life in Paris. It sounds selfish (especially as it's considered to be the most romantic city on Earth) but I like the idea of the experience being mine and mine alone.
Anna and the French Kiss gave me warm and fuzzy feelings whilst reading and I couldn't wait to dive into that world every night. It's a book you can lose yourself in, the kind of book that makes you want to keep reading even though it's 3 am, whilst at the same time a book you want to savour for as long as possible.
I really loved this book and I'm so glad it lived up to the hype. It's the kind of book that I know I will re-read in the future as I loved every minute of it. I only hope it gets published in the UK as it truly deserves to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. A beautiful debut novel from Stephanie Perkins and I can't wait to read more from her.
Anna and the French Kiss was published on 2nd December, 2010. The paperback will be released in August, 2011. There will be two future companion novels, entitled Lola and the Boy Next Door (published 29th September, 2011) and Isla and the Happily Ever After (published in Autumn, 2012).