Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Published by: Speak
Goodreads summary: Here
Anna and the French Kiss explores Anna’s year in Paris after transferring from her Atlanta high school to a boarding school in Paris. There, in the city of love, she meets the handsome and charismatic Etienne St Clair. Sadly for her, he’s already taken. But, then again, maybe so is she …
Perhaps it was because the hype around this book had given me unrealistically high hopes, but Anna and the French Kiss left me distinctly disappointed.
On paper, the novel ticked all the boxes: Paris, check. Charming love interest, check. Nicely paced plot, check. Unfortunately, the frequently cheesy dialogue and Anna herself let the book down for me. Often selfish and prone to mawkish bouts of self-pity, I found it hard to connect with her and immerse myself in her romance.
One thing I did really enjoy about the novel was the slow development of the relationship between St Clair and Anna. Although Anna had a crush at first sight, they begin a very believable and realistic friendship before launching into anything deeper. I really appreciated this element of the story; so many relationships in real life start off this way and it also allowed us to see a lot of St Clair’s personality over a prolonged period of time.
Speaking of St Clair, he was great. I definitely do understand the fuss surrounding his character, and it’s well deserved. He’s not the stereotypically tall, dark and handsome love interest often seen in romance novels, but instead he’s a friendly, approachable lead who makes up in charm what he lacks in height.
Anna is my main problem here. She’s the type of character that is in a constant state of “woe is me”, and for no real reason. Much of the drama is either of her own creation or exacerbated by her lack of concern for others. She’s also, in my opinion, pretty superficial at times and lacks the depth to be a truly compelling protagonist. A self-confessed film buff and supposed connoisseur of the cinema, Anna has never heard of any French films nor its history or reputation. Seriously? She then spends the rest of her time in Paris watching American films because that’s what you do in a city known for its culture. To each their own, I guess.
She’s also a really terrible friend. I can forgive the cinematic ignorance and the moping about boarding school (after all, I went to a mixed day/boarding school so I know how acutely some people get homesick) but her actions towards her friends are selfish in the extreme. A final chapter acknowledgement of her behaviour is just too little, too late for me.
Is this one example where you actually need to be a teen to fully appreciate teen fiction? After all, I’m getting old. Maybe this is what passes for a grand romance amongst the kids these days.
Or, rather, is this a case of word of mouth ruining what is otherwise a good book? Maybe it’s a bit of both, but I probably would have enjoyed Anna and the French Kiss much more had I stumbled across it blindly. Instead, based on other reviews, I was expecting something really special and I suppose it was inevitable that I was going to be disillusioned.