Review Blog

Mar 15 2011

Anna and the French kiss by Stephanie Perkins

cover image

Penguin, 2010.
(Age 14+) Recommended. Romance. When Anna is shipped off to a boarding school in Paris for her final year she is not happy. She has left behind her best friend, Bridge, a job at a cinema that she loves and a beginning romance with a gorgeous boy. When she meets charismatic Etienne at her new school things begin to look up. But Etienne is already in a serious relationship. Will they ever manage to get together for their French kiss?
The beautiful setting of Paris makes this book stand out from the usual boarding school romances. Perkins takes the reader on a wonderful tour of this romantic city. At the same time she doesn't gloss over the difficulties that Anna has in learning a new language and a new way of life. She describes the problems of ordering food in the canteen, buying tickets for the movies and travelling on the Metro, but these are overshadowed by the descriptions of the Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter. Readers will long for the chance to visit Paris and envy Anna for her experience.
Both the main characters and Anna's friends are strong and believable. Anna is an interesting girl, who is serious about wanting to be a film critic. She watches lots of movies and runs her own website with film reviews. Fans of films will love the references to movies that dot the pages. Etienne has lots of charisma and the girls at the school find him swoon worthy. However he does have a vulnerable side which he shows Anna, as he copes with his mother's cancer and his father's bullying. Fathers don't come off too well in this book, as Anna too doesn't seem to respect her father, who is an author. She thinks that his books and films are shallow and predictable. I found myself avidly following the various subplots involving Anna's friends both in Paris and Atlanta. The incident when Anna came home for Thanksgiving and found herself almost a stranger, having to re-establish her place in her family, was both familiar and touching.
Readers who also love a romance will not be disappointed. The novel hums with tension as Anna and Etienne explore their feelings for each other. Anna initially settles for friendship as Etienne has a girlfriend, Ellie, who is studying elsewhere, but there is definitely a serious attraction going on. Friendship is a strong theme in this book and Perkins explores the possibility of friendship between boy and girl as well as how a real friend behaves to her girlfriends.
Fans of Sarah Dessen and Maureen Johnson are certain to enjoy this book.
Pat Pledger

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