Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Synopsis: 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 Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.
I might simply be the wrong audience for this book but this book was not the dream most people said it was, at least for me. That’s not to say that it did not have its highlights. For me, especially, was the vivid description of Parisian life – the boulangeries and patisseries. That absolutely saved me from giving it a 1 star review.
Essentially I have a few irreconcilable problems with this particular book. The first is the fact that the love story centers around cheating. Despite the fact that Anna and Etienne do not kiss until the end, the emotional cheating is there from the moment Etienne meets Anna (not to mention hand-holding, the tally of how many nights together, the sleeping in the same bed). This is essentially the reason why none of the romance in this book was swoon-worthy to me. I do not like books which have affairs in them, I find cheating inexcusable and for that I really could care less about Anna and Etienne.
Moving on to the main heroine Anna who is by definition #whitepeopleproblems – her dismay at being sent to study in Paris for a year and her essential tantrum that she throws made me side-eye her something fierce. Without doubt, a seventeen year old would be petrified at the prospect of being alone but this chick cries because she wont have prom. You know who will have prom? Nearly every teen in America. You know who might never get to go to Paris for A WHOLE FUCKING YEAR? Not even a few thousand. I found her immature and whiny and it sucked because I really really wanted to love this book. Being a Francophile myself I jumped at this book and it was such a let down.
The other thing I had serious issues with was the pacing in this book. At 372 pages this story could have used with about 50-75 pages less than what it got. Many scenes did not move the plot forward and it felt stagnant at many times and I admit to scanning forward to get to the juice of it.
As for our love interest, Mr. Etienne St. Clair. Oh Etienne… I just did not like him whatsoever. I found him confusing and he was always sending mixed messages to Anna embodying the nerdy BFF with bad-boy issues, like a combination of all bad YA love interest cliches. I just…no. It was all emotionally unhealthy. All of it.
I also felt that the bullying issue was so poorly handled by Perkins, I did not like the message that someone bullied should not say anything to the adult authority about the situation (most especially when the subject of the bullying is pertaining to sexuality and slut shamming!!). Anna kept quiet and took the bullying giving all the power to the stereotypical pretty mean girl and the adults were wallpaper. Seeing as this book is aimed at teens I do not think I would recommend it. Usually YA books that I find ‘too young’ for my taste I pass them on to my best friend’s daughter – she’s 13 but I would hate for her to read this.
Romanticizing cheating, badly handling bullying and slut shamming when it came to Etienne’s girlfriend (the nurse Halloween costume) who was naturally the bad one in the relationship despite her lack of presence in the novel since it’s told from Anna’s perspective made me overall dislike the book.
Now, my conundrum is that I’ve purchased the rest of the companion novels. I will try to read Lola and the Boy Next Door HOWEVER, if I see it going down the same path as this one I will D-N-F and be done with these. We’ll see, I’m really really hoping I enjoy it better.