It's been a while since I've done a book review and that would be because it's been a while since I read a book (click here to catch up with past reviews in this series!). After finishing Allegiant, I couldn't get inspired to pick up another novel. Nothing on my bookshelf was grabbing my attention, even though I'd purchased a few books offline recently. Then one day I was in the mood for something cute and lovey-dovey, and so I plucked Anna and The French Kiss off my shelves because what more cute and lovey-dovey than a love story set in Paris? Nothing. Within 24 hours, I'd finished the novel and set it down, liking it a whole lot but not amazed by it. Over the next few weeks I picked up and put down The Great Gatsby (a book I should have read ages ago) around a dozen times, but failed to actually read it. That's when I just gave up and picked up the story of Anna, her boarding school in Paris and her boy in Paris to devour yet again. And in the middle of the second read, I fell in love with it (and maybe even one of its characters :\ ).
Title: Anna and The French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Major Characters: Anna, St. Clair, Meredith, Rashmi, Josh
Main Plot: When Anna gets shipped off to The School of America in Paris leaving a best friend and an almost-boyfriend back home in Atlanta, she expects it to be miserable. But when she falls into step with a friendly foursome, one of which is a super attractive boy with an adorable accent, she wonders if maybe she could belong to the City of Light as well.
"Girl scouts didn't teach me what to do with emotionally unstable drunk boys."
"School of America in Paris" he explains. "SOAP".
Nice. My father sent me here to be cleansed."
"And, suddenly, I want to touch him. Not a push, or a shove, or even a friendly hug. I want to feel the creases in his skin, connect his freckly with invisible lines, brush my fingers across the inside of his wrists."
My Rating: 5
To start off, it's not this classic monster of a book. It's not going to make you stop and think about your decisions or bring your morals into question. It's not going to change your life. It's not a Pride & Prejudice, Of Mice & Men, The Catcher In The Rye. It doesn't bring you to an alternate world that's been forever changed by our rampant consumerism like The Hunger Games or Divergent. Yet, it's still one of my favorites. Because it is such a charming, feel good book.
Stephanie Perkins perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to fall in love. That feeling of not knowing whether you're friends or more than friends, and feeling like your heart might just pop right out of your chest when he gets a little too close. The electricity of a first touch or the moment when flirtatious banter is capped by a look that makes the ground fall from beneath your feet. When I read this book, both times I found myself giddily smiling into its binding and kicking my feet into the air, vicariously living through Anna and her Parisian experiences. There are particular scenes I reread multiple times before continuing because of how endearing they are to read.
Sometimes, when you read a romance-y type of novel, especially one with teenage characters (most of the characters are seniors in high school), you expect to feel "over it" because the romance is so unrealistic and the characters are so naive. This novel didn't feel that way. Aside from the typical teen-angst moment her or there, the problems they faced felt real and the situations they found themselves in weren't so far removed from the drama of adults my age. It ran the gamut from family issues, to loss, to discovering a new place, to being scared to ask "hey, are you into me?", and none of it felt tired or old. And surprisingly, the way Perkins develops relationships and friendships in the novel is great on timing. It isn't rushed. A quote from Pride & Prejudice is actually perfect to illustrate this point: "I was in the middle before I knew it had begun." There aren't "insta-best friends" or "I love you's at first sight". You feel the relationships growing and stretching to fill up the page and in the process, you fall in love as well.
I really enjoyed the simplicity with which the novel was written. As someone who struggles with using too many words in her writing and making things sound too complicated, the straight-forward, conversational writing of the novel was refreshing and easy to read. Plus, the way Stephanie Perkins explains Paris with such beautiful descriptions kind of transports you from your bedroom right into the City Of Love - if only until the final page is read. Or if you're like me, you go right back to the beginning and fall in love all over again.