Harmonic Feedback, then Nico in Chasing Brooklyn, and now it is just so very much Étienne St. Clair in Anna and the French Kiss. I am falling under the spell of the nice guys and I really have very little to say for myself except this: I am charmed. Utterly charmed. You know my feelings on the fictional boys and the many flavors they come in. When a love triangle is involved, I can generally be found over in the bad boy camp. But these books I've read recently are just beautifully free of triangles and feature the genuine article as far as the boys go, allowing me to freely admire their charms. Which I have been doing. And believe you me, this latest one will waltz away with your heart. I've been looking forward to reading Anna and the French Kiss for quite some time now, ever since the spectacular reviews started churning out and I got that little knowing feeling in my gut. You know the one. It whispers of good things ahead and lures you with the promise of a reader/book match made in heaven. Or at the very least, in Paris. This release marks Stephanie Perkins' debut and it is a delightful one. I'm anxious and excited to see where she goes from here.
Anna Oliphant is being packed off to France without so much as a by-your-leave. Her famous and fatuous father has decided she should attend the prestigious School of America boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school. Since her parents are divorced and her dad holds the purse strings, there is very little to be done about the whole thing but pack her bags, hug her friends goodbye, and leave Atlanta for the big unknown. Without a word of French under her belt, Anna arrives at her new school frightened and unsure of herself. Fortunately, her next door neighbor Meredith takes her under her wing and introduces her to her small circle of friends, including smart Rashmi, her goofy-but-talented boyfriend Josh, and one Étienne St. Clair--known to one and all simply as St. Clair. Anna has it pretty bad right from the start. You see St. Clair is kind of killing it in the attractive and interesting department. He's got the messy hair. He's got the English accent. He's funny and smart and up for anything. And the two of them hit if off immediately. But there is a fly in the ointment. Naturally. He also has a longtime girlfriend at a nearby college. And their mutual friend Meredith is in love with him. Which rather clearly spells steer clear for poor Anna. She resolves to be his friend when he needs her and focus on the amazing city she's come to live in, her growing film review site, and that boy back home she always wondered about. After all, it is the right and sensible thing to do. Isn't it?
This book has everything going for it. A smart and relatable heroine, who has been thrust into an equal parts extremely enviable and most distressing situation. A handsome, short (!), boy with an accent, who is genuinely kind and thoughtful and attracted to our girl something fierce. A simply gorgeous setting, complete with lush descriptions of its food, sights, sounds, and smells. And a conflict that builds up to Eiffel Tower proportions before either of them can figure out what in the world to do about it. In other words, reading Anna and the French Kiss is like plopping down on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate, a plate of buttered toast, and nowhere else you need to be for hours. It's an perfectly pleasant read, the kind of contemporary young adult novel you're always looking for. The romance is divine, the characters so very real, and the atmosphere second to none. I did find myself wishing at times for a little more insight on Anna's part with regards to the obviously lackluster Toph and her need to be with him. But, you know, I admired the mature way she handled her friendship with a boy she was in love with and couldn't have. How many of us handle that with anything resembling poise in high school? And the nice thing is, I found myself frustrated with St. Clair at certain parts as well. I like that Stephanie Perkins carefully crafted such a swoon-worthy character and simultaneously had the guts to leave the flaws in as well. Because when one of the two characters is perfect, what need has s/he for the other? These two need each other. They make mistakes and they vacillate. It's messy and drawn out and hanging by a thread. And I wasn't always sure leading up to the end whether they deserved each other or not. But I wanted them to. And, in the end, it was just right. I loved it. Treat yourself to a sweet little confection for the holiday season and pick up a copy soon. Anna and the French Kiss is out today!
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