Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss

It seems I am in the minority here, but I was pretty underwhelmed with this book. It is about a fairly normal girl on the eve of her senior year of high school who gets whisked out of her comfortable life in suburban Atlanta when her father insists on enrolling her at a boarding school in Paris. A typical high school senior, she is horrified at having to leave her friends and crush just as the last year of high school begins; the allure of Paris is nothing to her. Then she gets there and falls in love and learns to speak French and everything is a dream.

The book did make me feel violently remorseful that I never attended a Parisian boarding school, but that was really about the only emotion it inspired in me, so I'm declaring this to be something of a dud. The story pretty much revolves around the growing attraction between Anna and  Étienne St. Clair, a student at the Parisian boarding school. What draw me to this book was a number of reviews praising the author for her slow and careful development of their attraction. I think one review even said something like "it's so refreshing to have a female protagonist who doesn't fall in love with her suitor the moment he walks into the room!" That sounded great to me. I love nothing more than a painful, agonizingly long buildup of angsty romantic tension, and it is so rare in YA romances these days. Unfortunately, these reviews were LIES. An excerpt from the first time  Étienne and Anna meet:

The first thing I notice is his hair--it's the first thing I notice about anyone.  It's dark brown and messy and somehow both long and short at the same time. I think of the Beatles, since I've just seen them in Meredith's room. It's artist hair. Musician hair. I-pretend-I-don't-care-but-I-really-do hair. 
Beautiful hair.
"It's okay, I didn't see you either. Are you all right, then?"
Oh my, he's English. 
"Er. Does Mer live here?"
Seriously, I don't know any girl who can resist an English accent. 

The scene continues with a few awkward exchanges, and then Anna remarks to herself:  "The beautiful boy gives an amused grin. His teeth are lovely--straight on top and crooked on the bottom, with a touch of overbite. I'm a sucker for smiles like this." 

Really, if this is not an example of a female protagonist falling head over heels the moment she meets her suitor, I do not know what is. She's in love with him from the first moment, and it's just not all that compelling because neither character stands out that much--neither is terribly developed, and I don't really understand WHY they like each other so much.

The other problem I had with the romance is that for the vast majority of the book, St. Claire has a girlfriend (not Anna). Call me a prude, but this just irked me. Even as he clearly is falling deeper and deeper for Anna over a period of about 9 months, he resists breaking up with the girlfriend. I found this obstacle to be really off-putting rather than exciting. DUMP THE GIRLFRIEND, it's unfair to both the gf and Anna! I didn't really understand why he is so resistant to ending it with her, and ultimately I didn't care too much because I just never really felt it with him and Anna.

That said, this was not horribly written, and the "world building," such as it was, was pleasing, so...2 stars.


  1. Ha! I love your "Not Anna" remark--very similar to my "Not Your Girlfriend" rant :)

    I wanted to revisit Paris all over again after reading this one--it was so magical-sounding!

    Have you read Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson? If you're looking for a slow, natural developing romance, I think that's a great one! They clearly have chemistry from the very beginning, but it's almost like a friendship that turns into more.

    1. yes, i also felt violently compelled to go to paris after reading this! i think the boarding school and parisian setting part of the book was really well done. if only it didnt cost a fortune to get there amiright.

      i haven't read edenbrooke yet, but you're the second person to recommend it to me this morning! i just purchased the ebook on amazon (it was only $1.99!). so look for a review soon! thanks for the suggestion :-)

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