Thursday, 17 January 2013
Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
Stephanie Perkins is big on the blogosphere with her subsequent book Lola and the Boy Next Door being popular also.
What finally made me pick this book up was my trip to Paris between Christmas and the New Year. While choosing a book to take with me, it seemed like this would be the only one suitable to take with me to France. And I'm so glad I did.
Synopsis: As Anna prepares for her senior year at a high-school in Atlanta, her father - a famous romantic fiction novelist. Think Nicholas Sparks - drops a bombshell. Anna's senior year will be spent at an American school in Paris, France. Leaving behind her best friend, crush verging on boyfriend and great job, Anna is less than pleased to be starting a new life in France, a language she can't even speak. That's until she meets Etienne St Clair and a mismatch of lovely friends. Anna is instantly drawn to St Clair and soon they become best friends. Soon, she falls for him and it seems he might be too. Only problem: he has a long-term girlfriend.
Review: Firstly, I discounted this book as something a little too fluffy and girly for my liking just by reading both the title and blurb whilst grimacing at the front cover. The brunette's creepy, way-too-happy smile and awkward black scarf made me dubious whether I would like this book or even want to be seen reading it. The only reason I probably finally read this book is because my friend, Emma, bought this for me. So, I wasn't expecting much when I started this and after reading Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (one of the BEST books) previously to this book and my mother's look of worry when I passed this book to pack, I thought I would eye-rolling and cringing my way through this book.
Yet fear not, anyone that agrees with these observations on this book. This review does get positive because I actually really loved this book by the end. There is something about the charms of Anna, St Clair and the setting, Paris, that transforms this novel from okay to great. It's clear the setting is what I think makes this book hold and from visiting Paris soon before picking up this book, the beauty of the city definitely is shown through the page. I loved the descriptions of some of the well-known landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower, and the ones that only a tourist would know after visiting like the Luxembourg Gardens or the Pantheon - so much of Paris in one book! I think a lot of people would agree that it was refreshing to have a different setting that isn't the US or the UK.
This book is driven entirely by the characters, particularly Anna, whose adjustment to Paris is what makes this book initially interesting to read. Anna suffers a number of embarrassing and accidental moments that left me smiling at how realistic a character she comes across. I can totally relate to falling over in front of a group of people or getting tongue-tied. For me, Anna as a character was very likable. She was neither too perfect nor too annoying which I think her character could have become. It was just lovely to have a light-humoured contemporary like this with a likeable, realistic protagonist!
You can't mention the characters without mentioning the ever-so-lovely St Clair. Perkins has obviously just wrote a list of what every girl could want in a guy - sensitive ('a painter, but he was troubled' - totally thought of the lines in the Cell Block Tango from Chicago there), handsome, plain lovely, funny and just loveable. Oh and did I mention he has a proper English accent (which for me means nothing but obviously for Americans, that's a winner)? He has family problems of his own which becomes more and more serious throughout reading the novel. He's very flirtatious so a lot of the time there's some humming and erring whether he likes Anna in the way she evidently likes him since he has a serious girlfriend. But what I liked about this is that isn't the main plot of the novel, there are so many other events that make up the book. As well as Meredith, Josh and Rashmi (who grew on me, I have to say), this novel hosts some of the best, most vivid, lively characters I have had the chance to read and I put down the novel feeling completely connected to the emotions of the cast of characters, I was happy for the way it turned out.
The writing was something that also stands out for me, as well as those characters. Perkins writes with a clarity that makes the prose sound and feel like a teenager like Anna is writing it. There's the angst that every teenager, and most contemporaries, have especially emphasised by Anna's use of capitals. Although the novel is really a stream of what Anna is thinking, it's interesting and lively in a way that it makes you want to keep reading. The ending I guess is inevitable but halfway through the novel, I had little of an idea how it would get to that point. I just loved the carefree atmosphere of the writing, the loveliness of the characters coming off the page and the amazing portrayal of the scenery of Paris that really brings the novel to life.
If I could criticise this book for two things, it would the ending and, nick-picking, Etienne St Clair. Talking about the latter, St Clair, for me an English person, was not English in the sense that I took him to be. What I mean is that I imagined this very proper English accent, pronouncing all the 't''s and using words such as 'lift', 'pavement', 'rubbish' in an environment of Americans. However, although to begin with this did happen, on a couple of occasions, St Clair did not come across as properly English. That may just be me and my own Englishness but by the end of the novel, he was American to me.
The main thing, however, I criticise this book for was the ending. The majority of this novel I loved the events and the characters and I truthfully did not want the novel to end too soon. However (and I know I'm not the only one), the ending became a little bit too feeble and repetitive for me. Without revealing too much for those that haven't read this book, something keeps happening to Anna and it just made the ending a little, I guess, boring. The teenage angst is also intensified a little too much with Anna just seeming way too angry. Like I saw in one review on Goodreads, the book could have ended a little bit sooner for me.
Despite the ending, the majority of this book was absolutely amazing, and a book in which I really, really enjoyed. Stephanie Perkins is definitely on my radar now for contemporary literature and I'll be trying to get my hands on her other books! If you love Paris, you should read this. The vividness of detail is so magical that I felt like I was in Paris again. Although I had my doubts on the title and cover, this book soon makes up for that and I'm thoroughly glad I finally picked this book up!
I give it a 4.5 out of 5
Author's Website: http://naturalartificial.blogspot.co.uk/