Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss
Stephanie Perkins

The Premise: Anna doesn’t want to go to France for her senior year, but her parents don’t give her a choice. She’s enrolled in a boarding school: The School of America in Paris, and it’s good-bye to her best friend Bridgette and good-bye to Toph, the guy she may have had something with. Instead, Anna is the new girl in a place where all the other students seem so much cooler and more Parisian than her. Then Anna meets Étienne St. Claire, the cute boy with a French name and an English accent — the boy that everyone likes, but who has a girlfriend. Anna and Étienne become good friends, but maybe they could be more, if both of them didn’t appear to be already involved.

My Thoughts: This book made me feel very nostalgic for my youth. Anna and the French Kiss is very much about those first experiences – living in a new place, meeting interesting new people, seeing the world, all for the first time. When you’re seventeen and thrust into the world by yourself, everything is new and terrifying and glorious. I was actually amused that Anna cried as soon as she was alone in her new room in the dorms. Why? Because that is a real and believable reaction and I could relate to it.

At first, Anna is just awkward and self-conscious. Luckily, her next door neighbor, Meredith, takes Anna under her wing and introduces Anna to Josh, Rashmi, and St. Claire. Anna starts off as total newbie about Paris (I was cringing a bit), but she eventually relaxes and settles into the group and is is eating French food, walking to Paris landmarks and enjoying the Paris cinema scene. Despite Anna’s initial hang-ups about being an American and what Parisians must think of her, she’s a cool girl in her own right. She has a quick sense of humor and an interest in film, and while she thinks St. Claire is really hot, she always maintains her dignity around him. I loved that she is a girl who doesn’t have her brains turn to mush just because the guy she likes is looking at her.

The kids at SOAP that Anna falls in with are a self-assured, independent crowd. Their days consist of easy  friendships, hanging out in Paris and their dorms, relaxed in each other’s company. Before long, she and Étienne are close friends, but their relationship is fraught with their unvoiced attraction. Étienne is really good looking with the charm (and accent) to match. Even if he’s not very tall, there are several girls interested in him, including Meredith. Anna isn’t about to go after a boy her friend likes, besides, Étienne has a girlfriend, and Anna likes a boy back home named Toph.

In awkward denial-slash-avoidance, Anna and  Étienne maintain that they are just friends, even though they share moments filled with unvoiced feelings. Reading the story from Anna’s point of view made everything so much more immediate. You could cut the tension with a knife. This is where the story can be frustrating. When I was reading this, I felt exasperated by the way both Anna and Étienne were acting, but at the same time, I couldn’t fault either of them for it (OK, I wanted to fault Étienne, but I couldn’t really do it). There were very good reasons on both sides not to be the first one to admit anything or change anything. Plus they are young, and they have other people to consider. This is a character driven story, and Anna relationships with her old and new friends and her issues with her Nicholas-Sparks-alike father, and Étienne’s own issues with his friends and parents, are all part of the big picture. Luckily, there’s a whole school year to figure things out.

Overall: Anna and the French Kiss is one of those books that stands apart from the pack. I think it’s because it captures this little phase of life (when you’re out of the house, but not quite on your own), in a way that feels so real and relatable. Anna’s life made me nostalgic for my college days, the Parisian backdrop made me want to fly off somewhere, and the romance made me happy that I’m past the limbo of “I wonder if he likes me”. I like you for these things, dear book.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
One More Page – 5 stars (out of 5)
Giraffe Days – 5 giraffes (out of 5)
My Favourite Books – positive
Charlotte’s Library – “good reading, but it wasn’t a perfect book”
In which a girl reads – 8.25/10 (and with some interesting observations on Étienne)
The Book Pushers – A+
Chachic’s Book Nook – “deserves all the hype that it’s been getting in the blogosphere”
Life After Jane – positive
The Book Harbinger – “An incredibly sweet story”
Book Fare Delights – 5 strawberries (out of 5)
intoyourlungs – “seriously one of the best novels I’ve read this year”
christina_reads – positive
Guy Gone Geek – 4 stars (out f 6)

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26 thoughts on “Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

  1. Yes exactly – the nostalgia! I’m not sure how Stephanie Perkins got it so right, but gosh, this book reminded me so much of that period in my life. It was good *happy sigh*

    Li

  2. I loved this book! Anna & St. Clair’s gradual friendship/romance made them feel genuine as I was reading the story…and the setting really made me want to go to France >_<

    Great review 🙂

    • Aw, I didn’t think your comment was negative. I felt like you said you liked it and there were flaws, but not huge ones. Want me to change it to just say “positive” there?

  3. Aww, thanks for linking me!

    Also, loved your review. I’m so happy you liked this, as it really is one of my favourite contemporary YA romances. It was just so adorable, even if Etienne’s behaviour is questionable (the only reason I never faulted him while reading was because I was in a similar situation in high school and mostly behaved in the same manner — but alas, me and Etienne were young and stupid).

    I still haven’t read LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, but I plan to hopefully sooner than later.

    • Oh really? I want to hear this story of you in high school now! 😉 I think I’ve been in Etienne’s girlfriend’s place, so that’s where I come from. But I made my peace, an ex-boyfriend and I broke up very soon after he met some girl for the first time. I’m grateful it was upfront and I didn’t live through the waiting or wondering.

      Me too re: LOLA. 🙂

      • The situation for me was slightly different in that I was in a long-term relationship with someone, but it was long distance. We had been having a bit of a rough patch and I met someone at school who I got along really well with, and as hard as I tried (and believe me, I really did try), I started developing feelings for him. I ended up breaking off the long-term relationship to go out with him and he ended up dumping me after only a few months anyway. So no happily ever after for me in that regard. 😛 My brother still hangs out with him periodically and he’s a huge loser now anyway, so it was probably for the best, haha.

  4. Yay, you finally read it! Glad you ended up liking it too. I was frustrated by how long it took for Anna and Etienne admit their feelings but I loved the realistic portrayal of their relationship. I also loved the descriptions of Paris. Sigh, I really want to go there someday.

  5. I also totally related to the phase of life that Anna is in as well as standing no chance against the charms of Etienne. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Any plans to read LOLA? I’m curious to see how you’d like it. I think I like Cricket even more.

    • I kind of miss that phase in life. Especially the hanging out and doing nothing. OK I do do that when I visit old college friends, but that’s not as often as I’d like.

      Oh yes, plans to read LOLA for sure now.

  6. So timely, I just finished this book this week! And YES! I think what made me love Anna more than anything was that she was still herself–an intelligent, funny girl who wasn’t afraid to do silly or embarrassing things just because there happened to be a guy she liked around. I, however, DID fault St. Clair and thought he was a bit of a prick for many of the things he did. Yeah, Anna let them happen so she was at fault too, but as the one with the gf, I hold him more responsible. Just because someone’s an awesome friend, doesn’t make them an awesome bf.

    • Yes. I loved Anna. Keeping it real was great.

      His mom being sick, and this being from Anna’s point of view why I couldn’t fault him, but yeah. I know what you’re saying. I feel like life isn’t that clear cut for me to really come down on him, but I was definitely more frustrated by and disapproving of his actions than Anna’s.

  7. This makes me happy. Thinking of anyone reading this book makes me happy. 🙂 In fact, I’ve been feeling a reread coming on. Just that kind of mood.

    “Paris is always a good idea.”

  8. This was my favorite book of 2011! Granted, I didn’t read that much last year, but I think it would have still been a fav. It was so sweet.

    I’m listening to the sequel now, and I love it as well, though I think those of you who are frustrated with how long it took Anna and St.
    Clair to get together will be frustrated with Lola and Cricket too. I am! But I”m still loving it. I should finish it this week if I exercise like I’m supposed to 😉

    Sandy

    • It was on a lot of best of lists. One of those books that I kick myself for not reading sooner, but I’m happy I eventually got to it!

      Oh I need to get my hands on the sequel. Excellent idea – to listen to the audiobook while exercising. 🙂

  9. This was such a great read, and to me it is the perfect book to give to people who don’t really read YA! I liked the follow up as well and can’t wait to read the next book!

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