Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Anna Oliphant’s dad totally sold out and started writing crappy books that for some reason became incredibly popular. Now he’s insisting that she spend her senior year at a boarding school–School of America in Paris. Anna knows she should be enjoying her year abroad, after all, it is Paris! But she can’t help but miss her friends and family at home. She slowly starts to find her own new circle of friends and discover the wonderful things in Paris…..and to realize that she may be falling for one of her friends. A boy who is decidedly off-limits for multiple reasons.
Perkins takes a typical YA storyline–teenage girl sent away to boarding school, complete with teen angst–and puts just the right amount of her own twists and flavors in it to make for a delightful, unique read. I enjoyed this as an adult, but I’m sure 15 year old me would have been in love with it, re-reading it, and sighing over the main interest St. Clair.
The setting of Paris is delightful. Perkins captures the binary of excitement and trepidation at being in another country for the first time enough so that Anna is realistic but not annoying. Similarly, all of the characters act like actual human beings. They are neither perfect nor evil. They are simply doing their best to figure out how to function in the world. I appreciated this, and I’d imagine teen readers would too. Similarly, Perkins describes Paris in such a way that I wanted to move there instantaneously myself if for no other reason than the descriptions of the bread and eating meals in cemeteries. This is what it should be to be young. Angst combined with first-time glorious experiences.
Perkins manages to be both subtly funny:
“Huh?” I have such a way with words. I should write epic poetry or jingles for cat food commercials. (Location 1054-1058)
And perfectly capture what it is to be an adolescent female:
It makes me dizzy. It smells like freshly scrubbed boy. It smells like him. (Location 3100-3104
This is what an ideal YA book should be. Realistic about what young people face, but also about who young people are. Holding out hope that they can become good people, and they can learn and grow and overcome their mistakes. I highly recommend it to teen girls, as well as to adult women who still enjoy YA.
5 out of 5 stars