May 16, 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

By: Stephanie Perkins
Published: December 2010 by Dutton
Format: Hardcover, 372 pages
First Reviewed: May 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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In the City of Lights, wishes have a way of coming true.

Anna can't wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?

Rating: 5/5

Dog gone it! Another book without a tagline! -_- Anyway. No matter how good I'd heard this was, I still wasn't overly excited to read it. Mainly because I knew it was a romance, and expected pretty much just that. However, this book lived up to its great reviews.

Hello! Paris? Yes! Okay, even though I failed French (no lie; though my teacher would be either happy to know, or rather confused to know, that I'm trying to relearn), I love France. Never been, but I love it anyway. And Perkins did a great job transporting me there without it feeling too touristy or lecture-y. I felt as though I was Anna seeing Paris for the first time instead of a reader learning about Paris while the character learns about Paris. If that makes any sense.

Speaking of the character...Sings: Hallelujah! Thank you, Mrs. Perkins, for this fantastic characterization. That's always a worry of mine, not just with general fiction, but with any kind of romance, which, of course, is 95% of YA today (and growing, yeah?). It seems as though most of the time the male lead is unrealistic or too perfect and/or the girl is just so annoying that you don't care whether or not she gets her man. With this, Anna and St. Clair were both greatly developed. Anna carried all the believable traits that girls her age have all without being annoying. She'd have her moments of internal outbursts that would normally have me cringing, but Perkins handled her so well that I actually felt for her instead of getting frustrated. And St. Clair was perfect in that not-at-all-perfect way. I loved him! It's not often I fall in love with the love interest of a book. He felt so human and real; he just had many lovable traits about him paired with an emotional side.

As for the minor characters, I loved them, too. Perkins threw in a few cliché characters, but they were developed and handled in a way that made it not seem so. Something I always like to see (A Jayne Secret: I love clichés as long as they're done well). Anna's group of friends were diverse, relatable (as was Anna), and realistic. I felt for them all at one point or another, and I was so glad that they weren't boring, 1D/2D characters. Perkins gave them all roles.

Speaking of writing style, "speaking of" was said so much in this I think Perkins should be banned from using it ever again. Ha! Not that I should have a say in that, considering I've used it twice in this review alone. But besides that, I really only have a few nitpicks, so I'll get those out of the way first: CAPS LOCK! -_- Okay, it's good with me to use all caps every now and again. Maybe once or twice a book, but there was so much capitalizing going on in this. Too much. There's a thing called exclamation point. Also, I felt there was a bit of a inconsistency with Amanda's dialogue. The girl emphasizes (part of her character, so it didn't annoy me) for most of the book, but then it seemed to taper off.

However, that's about it. I had a few stumbles over sentences every now and again, but overall Perkins has strong writing. She gives Anna a voice from the beginning and stays consistent throughout. It also changed with Anna's current states without being strange or overwhelming, which I loved. The prose was great, the pacing was great, and the dialogue was believable. I'm very interested to see how Perkins grows from here.

The plot was so cute, so fun, so full of all kinds of emotion. So realistic. To be frank, I loved this. I remember thinking in the beginning that I wouldn't like this as much as everyone else had. I thought for sure Perkins was going to turn on me any second and give me crappy characters or a plot full of romance that made me roll my eyes. But she didn't. She gave me broken characters that help each other grow stronger. There's genuine love in this book. Friendships are created, lost, and mended. There are jerks that earn what they deserve. There are some hilarious scenes/lines. I literally laughed out loud a few times. There are some intense scenes and situations. Obstacles that the characters learn to overcome. And all of it was crafted so well. I felt the characters' pain, love, happiness, sadness, anxiety. It was all there. I couldn't have asked for more from this book. Perkins did a fantastic job!

I will say I didn't care for the name change thing. I won't say exactly what I mean to avoid spoilers. Also, there was one instance that I felt Anna should have connected something she did to something a friend did, and she never truly did. She did recognize it to some degree, so it wasn't too big a deal.

Overall, this was a cute, fun read full of love, heartache, and feeling. It's about finding one's true self, letting other's in when you need them, and opening your eyes to see who's right in front of you. It's beautiful, once I really think about it. It has meaning behind it and a purpose beyond finding love. It's about finding home.

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