Anna is a Georgia girl, looking forward to her senior year of high school. She loves her family, best friend, and job–and the prospect of what could be with a coworker has her excited for what the next year might bring. But her dreams come screeching to a halt when her Nicholas Sparks-esque father enrolls her in an American boarding school in Paris.
Confession: I am a sucker for a good romance. If you’re in the mood for a romance that’s more than fluff and so realistic that it burns, Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss is the book for you. It’s exactly what’s right about YA romance, in the same vein as Elizabeth Scott (though far superior) and Sarah Dessen (so I’m told; I’ve never actually read any Dessen).
The best part of Anna is how relatable it is. I have been Anna in so many ways. Her first week of boarding school mirrors my experience at college–although I was in small-town Pennsylvania, not France. I have had my share of dreamy St. Clairs, the boy who was always more than just a friend–but most of them didn’t end quite so well. And, let’s be honest, we’ve all had our Daves (the boy you date who is so not right for you), Bridgettes (the best friend who ends up with the boy you thought you wanted), and Tophs (the guy who flirts with you but doesn’t intend to do anything beyond that). Anna’s schooling is more than a fragment of setting; her classes shape her thinking and feeling, as school often does in real life. It’s a story we’ve all lived through, plopped into an exotic, inherently romantic setting. What’s not to love?
I love that Anna’s friends play a central role in her story. St. Clair is her friend from the start, which complicates things. Mer is always a priority, despite conflicts and fallings-out. Anna’s friends in Georgia effect her life in France. Her many friendships and family relationships each give a new facet to her story.
Maybe you’re thinking, “France? Whatever. I’m so over the Eiffel Tower being plastered all over stuff at Target. I bet that’s all she talks about, too. The Eiffel stupid Tower.” And I get that. I’ve never understood the allure of France, preferring the idea of England and Scotland (partly because they speak English). But this book wrecked that. Perkins’ characterization of France and its people is so thorough and well-executed that Paris has been added to my list of Places to Visit. I have to go to Point Zéro and that Shakespeare bookstore. I must eat French food and admire Parisian fashion. Perkins has bitten me with the travel bug; my wanderlust has been awakened.
The margins of my copy of Anna have been littered with tiny pencil hearts. I can only hope that Lola and Isla live up to Anna‘s standard.