When I first looked a little dubiously at this shiny cover picture of the coy girl and the Eiffel Tower, I would never have predicted that about a month later I would be standing eagerly in line at a conference center in New Orleans, awaiting my chance to snatch up Stephanie Perkins' next novel. I picked Anna and the French Kiss off the library shelf while browsing earlier this summer because I remembered that John Green had mentioned it with high praise in a Vlogbrothers video a few months before. I flipped the book over and saw more excited praise from E. Lockhart and Maureen Johnson. Well, I thought, I guess I really have to give it a try. But I remained a little doubtful. The blurb inside the cover sounded like a classic romance cliche: girl likes boy but boy is taken.
Then I started to read. And, wow, was I wrong!
Stephanie Perkins' debut novel is anything but cliche. It is, in fact, one of the most refreshingly realistic yet romantic love stories I have read in quite sometime. Anna has been sent off to Paris by her Hollywood sell-out father who suddenly decided that his daughter should spend her senior year at an international boarding school instead of at an average American public school. So Anna is forced to leave behind her little brother, her best friend and her crush on the verge of becoming more to start a whole new life in Paris. She is not pleased. But then she meets Etienne St. Clair--part British, part American, and all around gorgeous. However St. Clair has a serious girlfriend and so Anna pushes her attraction to the back of her mind. As the year goes on, Anna finds herself whirling through Paris with a quirky new group of friends and suddenly St. Clair has become her closest confidant. The world of friendship, attraction, and love is full of confusions and misunderstandings that even the magic of Paris may not be able to untangle.
Anna and the French Kiss is a great love story, pure and simple. It is about two people who are stumbling from friendship to something different--two people who feel a connection they can't explain but who are afraid to take the leap into unknown territory. Perkins has given us a great gift: a romance grown from an intimate and real friendship between two strongly developed characters. Anna and Etienne are both deeply human and complex characters and I fell in with both of them easily. But the depth of character goes beyond the main pair; I loved the whole supporting cast and found each one to have a distinct and believable personality. And while the story is unashamedly a romance, Anna's growth and development over the course of her senior year is widespread, involving her best friend at home, her family, and her new friends in France.
In his video, John Green described this novel by saying that it was like his and Maureen Johnson's writing had a baby. While (as he acknowledges) that may not be the perfect description, it's not a bad one. Anna is all the things I love about Maureen Johnson and John Green's books: it's witty and well-written and chock full of wonderfully three-dimensional characters and complex human relationships. Anna and the French Kiss is the best kind of romance: sweet but not fluffy and full of the beautiful flaws of a real relationship. By the end, I was so invested in Anna and Etienne and their friends that I held the book in front of me to read while walking up a hill, Belle-style, just so I could finish it before my shift started.
So, in other words, READ IT. Go and grab Anna and the French Kiss and read it and fall in love. Then await eagerly for the first companion novel Lola and the Boy Next Door, which comes out in September. My ARC (for which I waited in line nearly an hour with a grumbling stomach) is sitting on my floor, calling to me and I can't wait to fall in love all over again.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins