Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French KissGoodreads: Anna and the French Kiss
Series: Companion book to Lola and the Boy Next Door

Summary:  Anna is irate that her father has sent her to boarding school in France for her senior year of high school.  He is forcing her to leave behind prom, her best friend, and a potential boyfriend to live alone in a country where she does not speak the language.  Things begin looking up when Anna befriends the cute and charismatic Etienne St. Clair.  The only problem is: he already has a girlfriend.

ReviewAnna and the French Kiss is a really fun and romantic read, combining all the right elements to build an atmosphere that will make readers swoon.  It has a romantic setting (Paris), an attractive and caring love interest (Etienne), and a relateable narrator (Anna). It also takes place in a boarding school—where the characters have the freedom to build relationships that are closer than at a normal public high school.

Behind the romantic daydream setting, however, there is a strong story populated by realistic characters who learn real life lessons.  Anna’s voice is a great combination of kindness, humor, and teen bitterness (created when she is sent away from home).  She sounds alternately mature and young depending on her circumstances, as all teenagers do; Perkins nails the adolescent voice and experience of being caught between childhood and adulthood.  Anna experiences real homesickness and awkwardness in a foreign country, and the book is as much about her personal growth into culture and confidence as it is about her budding romantic relationships.  Beside her is a great cast of friends—artsy, athletic, funny, and angry in turn.  Together they figure out that friendship might not be always easy, but that they can make it work.

The romance, while certainly swoon-worthy, can also teach young readers how to build good relationships.  Things are tough in Anna and the French Kiss.  Etienne is not attractive because he has a girlfriend and is off-limits; he is just a guy who is handsome and good and kind and happens to be off-limits.  All the characters do their best to respect that, but, as in real life, things get tricky when someone is still in a relationship but beginning to be interested in someone else.  Important questions arise, such as When should you break up?  And how much interest in another person counts as cheating?  As teens—as humans—the characters struggle with these issues, but Perkins allows the characters to address them seriously and she herself treats them with thought and care.

Anna and the French Kiss is a delicious, yet thought-provoking read.  It is the perfect combination of fantastical romantic situations (a boarding school in Paris!) and teenage reality.  This is not a romance with issues tossed in to make it “serious.”  It is a romance where issues occur naturally because the characters are human, but where the characters learn to deal with them as best they can and still find their happily-ever-after.

Published: 2010

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