If you’re thinking that ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins sounds silly or trite, push that thought out of your head right now. This book is not whatever you’re thinking it is—and I bet I was thinking the same thing you were when I first heard about it. After all, the book has been out for close to a year now and despite all the rave reviews I’ve read, I just...had no interest in reading this book. It sounded like a straight-forward romance. I mean, it has “kiss” in the title. (When sold at auction, the book was titled ANNA AND THE BOY MASTERPIECE, which isn’t much better...) The cover is so light and breezy. You would think this is a straightforward romance for teens, right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong. This book will defy every one of your expectations going into it. It’s not even about French kissing. I mean, sure, there are characters that make-out, but this book is not about a girl obsessed with kissing a cute boy. Yes, it’s about falling in love for the first time, but it’s also so much more. I picked this book up before going to bed thinking it would put me to sleep. I was up late finishing this book and bleary-eyed for work in the morning!
The novel revolves around a girl named Anna, whose father decides to ship her off to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school. She’s forced to leave her mother and brother, as well as her friends and the boy she was about to start dating. Not only that, Anna doesn’t speak a word of French. She’s dreading the year to come and furious at her father. Anna is fortunate in that she makes friends with Meredith, her new next-door neighbor, and immediately has a circle of people to make friends with. This includes, of course, Étienne St. Claire, a swoon-worthy male she stands no chance with. He already has a girlfriend, for one thing. For another, he only sees her as a friend. The heart of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is in the way Perkins builds her character relationships, not just between Anna and Étienne, but everyone else as well. The friendships are solid; readers will wish they had been part of such a close-knit group in school. The author has a way of creating moments that will break your heart, ones that will make you go back and re-read certain passages after finishing the book (Hands up if you did. Don’t be shy! I did, too...), ones that hover as delicately as a butterfly, making you want to stay on that one page forever. The characterization reminds me a lot of UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand, another book that took me by surprise this year. I’m a sucker for well-written characters that have me rooting for everyone, even minor characters.
The best thing about ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is that it has no cliffhanger ending. It’s not part of a series designed to leave you hanging between books. Granted, you’ll still want to know what happens to various characters, but Perkins has stated that we’ll be seeing cameos in this fall’s LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR (Sept. 29, 2011), and ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER (Fall 2012). I cannot wait to read both of these, as well as any other books Perkins writes in the future. I tend to like books that take place at boarding schools—and ones with boys who live next door, so these books are win/win for me!
I love the colors in this cover. I like that the designer didn’t go with a bubble-gum pink cover that screams chick-lit. The only bubble gum is in the “and the” part of the title, surrounded by a pale green mirrored by the grass. I like that the Eiffel Tower is in the background, letting readers know the book takes place in France. I also appreciate the way you can’t see Étienne’s face, which allows readers to envision him in whatever their own definition of “hot” is. The cover and title do scream romance, which threw me off this fantastic book for the better part of a year. Don’t make the same mistake I did. READ THIS BOOK!