Published: December 2, 2012 (Dutton)
Series or stand-alone: Stand-alone
Source: Purchased from Hastings
Further info/purchase: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Twitter | Website
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?
So my relationship with Anna and the French Kiss went like this: read about book. Watch everyone swoon. Wonder if it's really THAT good. Finally buy book. Start reading book - immediately fall head over heels in love with the book, the setting, the characters, and THE BOY. But fangirling aside, in all seriousness, Anna and the French Kiss is possibly my favorite read so far of 2012, and I cannot believe I waited this long to read it.
Stephanie Perkin's main character, Anna Oliphant is incredibly down-to-earth, relatable, and the kind of girl I immediately was able to identify with after the first several pages. Dropped off by her mother and estranged father in Paris to attend a boarding school for her senior year, Anna is understandably overwhelmed and ill-prepared to cross the language barrier, but as she navigates the unfamiliar territory of her school and meets an astounding cast of supporting characters along the way, Anna grows from an emotionally guarded teenager into a brave, bold young women - and it is done in a way that left me amazed at Stephanie Perkin's ability to write such a sympathetic, engrossing character. Anna and the French Kiss is so much more than the cover or the synopsis can prepare you for - it's about friendship, love, hit-and-miss flirtations, new experiences, courage, fear, mistakes, and so much more. But mostly, it's about life and living life to the fullest.
Along for the ride with Anna are the well-developed and likable secondary characters: flashy, outspoken Meredith, artistic Josh, reserved Rashmi, and Etienne St Clair. The group immediately takes Anna under their collective wing and I found something to love about each of them. Etienne's girlfriend, Ellie, was part of their circle the year before and when she moved away to college, they all lost a friend, yet they welcome Anna with (mostly) open arms. Together with the four, Anna begins to slowly find her wings, in small ways at first - like leaving the school dorm for the first time - and eventually, trips to movie theaters father and farther away. My favorite scenes were the ones with Anna and St Clair exploring Paris, because I felt like I was right there with them, at Notre Dame, at various restaurants, and so forth. Stephanie Perkins drew me in effortlessly - I never felt like I was reading a book; instead, I felt like I was getting a glimpse into these character's lives.
I can't properly review Anna and the French Kiss without mentioning the relationships. Anna's friendships were all complex and awesome, whether it was hers with her best friend from home, Bridgett, or hers with Meredith, or with Rashmi. I felt like everyone helped teach Anna a bit more about herself than she knew at the first of the book, and all the growth on her part was just so poignant and meaningful, and truly gorgeous. I'm a huge fan of character growth; watching a character mature over the course of a novel sets my heart fluttering, and there was a great deal of growth on Anna's part, and St Clair's, too.
And speaking of Etienne St Clair...what to say that hasn't already been said? Readers have been swooning over him for some time now, and with good cause. Etienne is supportive and loyal with a fierce streak that, although we don't see a great deal of, is incredibly appealing. He's independent and loving, yet he also has flaws of his own. Together, he and Anna begin a friendship that evolves into something so heart-achingly real and genuine that they brought me close to tears more than once. The tension between them is never over-done but always just enough and so resonating. Their interaction was my favorite part of the book - I laughed with them, shook my head at them, inwardly cringed at their missteps, aww'ed at their friendship, and ultimately, they completely won me over, becoming one of my favorite literary couples. To me, Anna and Etienne were the heart of Anna and the French Kiss, and their story will stay with me for a long time.
And I realize ... it’s okay. It’s okay if St. Clair and I never become more than friends. His friendship alone has strengthened me in a way that no one else’s ever has. He swept me from my room and showed me independence. In other words, he was exactly what I needed. I won’t forget it. And I certainly don’t want to lose it.
I risk a glance, and St. Clair stares back. Deeply. He has not looked at me like this before. I turn away first, then feel him turn a few beats later. I know he is smiling, and my heart races.