Mar 5, 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Book cover of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Title: Anna and the French Kiss [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Stephanie Perkins [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel, but there are/will be two companions!
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Published: December 2nd, 2010 by Listening Library/Dutton
Format: Audiobook/Kindle edition.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: Completely Contemp Challenge.

Anna's father, who seems to basically be Nickolas Sparks, decides to ship her off to boarding school in Paris for her senior year to get herself some culture.  She doesn't want to go, and is bitter at her lack of choice, but she finds herself not entirely hating the place once she makes some new friends--particularly Etienne St. Claire.  St. Claire is American born, English raised, and French sired.  And if you don't find that hot, well I don't know what's wrong with you.  Too bad he's taken; not only does he have a girlfriend, but her new friend Meredith's totally in love with him.  Besides, Anna still has feelings about Toph from back home, right?  Ha!  Prepare for a year of awkward.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the importance of choosing the right format.  I initially picked up Anna and the French Kiss as an audiobook, and after suffering through 5 chapters I was ready to give up.  I couldn’t stand the narrator, Kim Mai Guest.  To me, the narration came across as very whiney, snobby, made the whole story seem very vapid, and I did not want to hear it.  Needless to say, I won’t be listening to other works like How I Live Now or Wildwood Dancing that are also narrated by Kim Mai Guest.  Now, I do want to emphasize that this audiobook was recommended by multiple people, so don’t let my bad experience make up your mind--just know that if you don’t like it, you can always change formats!  Since pretty much everyone loves this book, I decided I’d switch over to the Kindle edition and push through to see if I could like it better.  This made all the difference!

My judgements and emotions went back and forth a lot throughout this book.  I love boarding school (living vicariously), but I hate Paris (maybe hate is extreme, but I don't like it).  I loved St. Clair (awesome friend), but he was kind of a douche (crappy boyfriend).  Anna was annoyingly naive (come on, no one watches that much film and doesn’t know ‘pissed’ means drunk in Britain), but totally identifiable (more on this later).  There were some teeth grinding cliches (like bending down to pick things up and bumping heads), but the story was very true to life and the crappy decisions many people make in relationships.  In the end, I decided I really liked it, and appreciate Perkins’s honesty and ability to wrangle uncomfortable situations into text in a way that made me scream “WHY AM I SO AWKWARD?”

So...since this is a romance, let’s discuss the leads!  I identified with Anna a lot, in ways that actually made me uncomfortable to remember some of the past decisions I made that hurt my personal relationships.  She’s a film buff, and wants to be a critic, which is awesome.  She’s totally awkward about her Americaness upon moving to Paris, which I can 100% identify with.  I spent my junior year in Europe, and had similar feelings upon moving to New York.  Being from Wyoming, my impression of NYC was largely formed watching episodes of Sex and the City.  I was so nervous to even set foot in the city at first, as Anna was in Paris--filled with complete misconceptions and self-consciousness.  Anna was also awesome in that she didn't turn into a bumbling idiot around the guys she liked. She was still her intelligent, funny, silly self. Finally, I completely loved Anna’s outlook on sex.  She basically states that she wouldn’t have sex with anyone unless, if she were to get knocked up, she wouldn’t be embarrassed to tell said kid who her father was.  YES!  I will totally preach this to my daughters someday.  

And then there’s Etienne St. Claire.  First the good: he’s shorter than Anna (as a 6’ tall woman, I love seeing this sort of thing), he’s totally sweet, funny, and thoughtful, he goes out of his way to make sure Anna feels comfortable and explores Paris.  Then...the bad: he’s so needy that he continues to date his gf, even after he obviously has feelings for Anna because he’s not 100% sure of her feelings, while at the same time actively working to keep any other guy from getting near Anna.  He crosses all the lines.  But then he totally calls Anna on her shit, and there’s totally (at least) two people in this boat, so I guess I can’t funnel all my angsty glares toward him.  Also, yeah, he's going through some crap, and I guess that can make people make stupid decisions. So I forgive the guy.

In the end, I appreciated that this wasn’t a fluffy happy love story, even though it was full of some great humor.  There were a lot of very realistic bumps in the road, and I found myself thinking ‘oh thank goodness I’m not the only one who’s been this stupid’.  

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  I may have been waffling for the first portion of this book, but by the end I was sold, and will be reading both Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After.  Does anyone know if Isla will feature the Isla that appeared as a minor character in Anna?  I hope so!

Recommended for:  Girls who need to grow a spine already, Paris lovers, pretty much anyone who likes YA romance. OH WAIT I'M THE LAST PERSON TO READ THIS BOOK.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  Your vocab word of the day is callipygian.  Meaning having well shaped buttocks.  


  1. Hah, yes it feels like everyone has read this! I'm pretty much in agreement with you on your reaction to this book, although I don't think I had the same awkwardness about new places. Totally agree with the outlook on sex.

    So.. why do you hate Paris?

    1. Part of my feelings on Paris might be the contrarian in me. I feel like everyone loves it, and it's so hyped, yet it was probably my least favorite place that I visited in Europe. It seemed fairly dirty, and the people were less friendly than most other places. They were even rude to my friend from Quebec because she was French Canadian and not French. I'm sure Paris can be wonderful, I just didn't have a great experience and don't have any desire to go back. My favorite cities in Europe were Oslo, Copenhagen, Salzburg, and Prague.

  2. *Sigh* I LOVED Anna and the French Kiss! To be honest, I love Paris and loved being able to recall what visiting those places feels like as Anna sees them. But I feel you with the unfriendliness: I once got maybe-jokingly/maybe-seriously reprimanded by my waiter when I didn't eat my pate correctly at dinner. So yeah.
    But I loved Anna and I loved Etienne, probably because they weren't perfect. Anna's obsession with her boy from home kind of annoyed me, and Etienne frustrated me because he stuck with his GF even though he OBVIOUSLY wanted to be with Anna. In the end, I thought it was all swoony and cute, though, and I'm glad that you wound up liking it enough to want to pick up Lola! That was a great one, too. (And yes, I do believe that the Isla in Isla and the Happily Ever After is the character from this book. I'm hoping that the guy is Josh, too!)

    1. I'm hoping it's Josh as well! Because of that, I think I'm more excited for Isla and the Happily Ever After than I am for Lola and the Boy Next Door. I totally agree about loving Anna and Etienne because they're flawed though! I also love that they were flawed in ways that were real, but not completely cliche. I was very happy with the way everything ended up, despite the rocky road getting there.


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