Beach Reads is a summer meme, posted here every
weekend. It consists of quick, light reviews about books that
make good beach or backyard reading. Find out more here,
and feel free to post your own Beach Reads and enjoy the summer right!
Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
Contemporary, 372 pages
Published December 2nd 2010 by Dutton
I'm not going to lie, I was resistant to this. When it first came out and bloggers the world over lost their sh*t over Anna, I just figured it was another in a line of contemporary books that I would not read or care to. It looked and sounded so girly and cutesy and fluttery and things that I try to deny I am or ever was... But the hype just built and built and everyone kept saying how funny it was, and I thought, "Well okay, I can do funny. And I have been saying I am going to try more contemporary and more *gulp* romance." So I added it to the to-read list and didn't really think much more about it. It was always a "some day" read.
And then Liz and Allison cornered me on Twitter and insisted that I read it as soon as humanly possible. And since I was in the planning stages of the whole Beach Reads thing, I said okay. Maybe. We'll see.... And then it showed up in my mailbox. Okaymaybewe'llsee is not good enough for Liz, it seems.
And thank god for that.
For real, you guys. I don't even know if I can explain why I love this book so much. I mean, it's not like anything earth-shattering ever happens. It's just a slice-of-life kind of story, and one that I would expect to be a little disconnected from (you have to be pretty fancy-pants rich to go to a French boarding school, afterall. I don't much care for reading about fancy-pantses trying to make out). Thank god it's not some Richie Rich boarding school story. Though Paris is a bit of a character in its own right and plays a role in Anna's awakening, the boarding school is almost incidental. This is much more a story of friends and family and how, sometimes your family is what you make it (and friends are the family you choose, and any other cliche you'd like to insert here).
It just felt real. The characters are funny and flawed and they interact with each other in such an authentic way. There are times when an author is trying to write a funny teen book and everyone becomes very quippy and witty and over the top. They're caricatures, and it makes them hard to connect to. The characters in Anna aren't like this. They are funny, but in the way that your friends are funny. It's situational and comfortable, and it feels really true. They all have their issues and they grow and change, and sometimes that means they grow apart, and it's all very believable. It's not just The Anna & Etienne Show. All of the core characters felt like real people and - more importantly - real teens on the cusp of adulthood.
But of course I can't talk about this book without talking about the romance. I judge a good romance on whether it gives me butterflies. This passed the butterfly test easily. And it's not because it's so swooning and lusty and hawt. Like the characterization, the romance felt really real. It is flawed, and there are times you think it's never going to come together, and times you think maybe it shouldn't come together, and all the while you're breathless with anticipation. It's not the melodramatic, substance-less fare that is typical to YA romance. There is a basis to it, Anna and Etienne do and will work at it, but most importantly of all, it's backed by friendship. It's a companionable romance story, which I trust so much more than a lust-at-first-sight, death do us part, manic "romance". There's a really solid, strong friendship being built throughout the story, and that, I think, creates longing and satisfaction in the reader just as much as any hoped-for french kiss.
And of course, Paris makes everything romantic.
So if you're dragging your feet, doubting whether to read this and keeping it on the back burner for "some day", or are embarrassed to read something with this title/cover combo, do yourself a favor and bump it up on your list. Remove the dust jacket if need be, find yourself a quiet, comfortable place to hide your flutters, and commence equal parts laughing and swooning.