Title: Anna and The French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Page Count: 372
Published On: December 2, 2010
Goodreads Rating: 4.25
Buy via: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Rating: 2/5 Crystal Balls
Summary: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited? [x]
The only reason I fit this book in right now was because of the constant hype I saw on various book blogs. I saw it over and over again and I just knew I had to make time for this book right now. Well, I'm glad I did because now I don't have to wonder if I would like this book or not. I am more of a fantasy/paranormal kind of girl, but I do love some contemporary novels. I really, really wanted to like this book. I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan and because she's the Queen of YA Contemporary, I use her books as a measure for everyone else's. I'm sorry to say that Anna and The French Kiss did not live up to these lofty expectations. Almost immediately after I started reading, I knew I wasn't going to be able to agree with all the positive hype and it saddened me. I continued reading on, hoping things would pick up, and that I would change my mind, but sadly they never did.
The main plot centers around Anna Oliphant (or "Banana Elephant" as her friends call her), a 17-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia who is forced by her star writer father to attend school in Paris, France for her senior year. This requires Anna to leave behind her bff Bridge and her crush Toph, but hope for the possibilities of holiday break in December. Until then, she is content to stay in her room, watch movies, update her movie review blog, and avoid the "difficult" French language all together. This “dull” existence all changes when she meets Etienne St. Clair and his friends. Anna finally has people to bring her out of her shell and show her Paris. Things are going great until she realizes she has fallen for St. Clair and as a result, various predictable obstacles prevent them from being together until the very end.
The world-building is the biggest asset of the book and it helps set the scene for people who have never been to Paris (like me!). Stephanie Perkins does a great job of illustrating the magical world that is Paris, France (I mean the book is called Anna and The French Kiss!). She highlights various famous landmarks such as Notre Dame, The Latin Quarter, Cinetiere du Pere-Lachaise, and Point Zero. I enjoyed the comparisons to American culture, which helped give the story some context as well. I just can't believe there weren't any scenes set in the Louvre!
One of the things Sarah Dessen does so well with her books is that they're not just about a love story. They are also family stories and character stories. The main protagonists in her stories have loads of other issues to contend with other than worrying about if some guy likes them. That is just one part of their journey. This book should have been about Anna's journey of self-discovery. Instead, it becomes all about some guy. Anna starts out the book as a promising character. She understandably doesn't want to leave home for her senior year. She has issues with her father. She has a crush on the guy at work. She wants to be a famous film critic and has a blog. She also is afraid of change; afraid of venturing outside her comfort zone. This was an aspect of her personality in which I could connect. Change is scary, especially when the changes are as a result of something negative. I wish this would have been the focal point of her characterization.
However, all of Anna's issues are railroaded by one singular obsession: St. Clair. St. Clair is not a nice guy, but he is portrayed as one. He is popular, good-looking, and has an accent, so he is a natural point of infatuation for everyone. However, throughout the book, even though he has an emotional and physical affair with Anna, he still refuses to break-up with his girlfriend Ellie because he doesn't want to be alone (and this is portrayed as a "rootable" relationship?!). This unhealthy relationship tug-of-war goes on for pages and pages ("He's leaving me AGAIN!") and I honestly thought the book could have benefited from stronger editing and page number reduction (It was about 100-120 pages too long). It is like the author kept creating various contrivances just so the book could last a certain number of pages. If that's not bad enough, the ending is silly and abrupt, with no resolution given to any other storyline (What about Anna and her dad??!) except throwing Anna and St. Clair together. Only St. Clair benefits by being able to stick it to his father and go to the college of his choice. Furthermore, all the other supporting characters have the personality of cardboard cutouts and all play to a variety of stereotypes like "the mean girl", "the best friend", "the token POC", "the band guy", "the art guy", "the sporty girl" etc...while propping up various incidents of slut-shaming, homophobia, and misogyny. (The only supporting player that seemed to have a flushed out character was Rashmi and that was probably by accident). Finally, the dialogue was incredibly cheesy and not in a good way. I can't count how many times I rolled my eyes or laughed. I even started doing ~dramatic readings aloud that ended in a burst of giggles. Of course, I'll never forget "He's A-list and you're D!" which is the best bad line ever.
In conclusion, I really wanted to like it, but Anna and The French Kiss will remain one of my biggest contemporary lit disappointments of all time.