Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I adore this book, Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins! If you’re looking for a fun teen romance involving international travel and lovable characters, this is it! Anna is an earnest, spunky Atlanta teen with a love for cinema. She dreams of becoming a film critic. She’s also an endearing germophobe. Her BFF is a girl named Bridge, and her co-worker at the movie theater? Well, let’s say he might become something more than a co-worker. Anna’s life is progressing just fine in Georgia, thank you very much, when her father decides– despite Anna’s protests– to send her away for senior year to a boarding school in Paris.

On her first night at the “School of America in Paris,” Anna is sobbing her heart out, when the friendly girl-next-dorm, Meredith, comes to her rescue with some hot chocolate. Anna quickly fits in with Meredith’s clique of artsy friends, and is instantly smitten with Meredith’s crush, a charismatic London boy – with perfect hair – named Étienne St. Clair. Unfortunately for both Anna and Meredith, Étienne already has a serious girlfriend. But it’s evident that Anna’s feelings for Étienne might be reciprocated, despite the fact that Étienne keeps (infuriatingly!) returning to his girlfriend. No sweat, Anna tells herself: there’s still that guy back home. …Or is there?

In a year of serendipity, confusion, heartache and forgiveness, the funny, reliable Anna and charming Étienne take on Paris, navigating the winding roads of their awkward, puzzling, and ambiguous best-friendship. Romantic comedy-esque he-said/she-said fills these pages, but in a well-written, addictive way. (I was so engrossed, I was literally dreaming about this book at night!) Following Anna’s hilariously self-deprecating thoughts and entertaining inner monologues in the first person, present tense, often felt like stepping into my own brain. It was easy to relate to Anna and get wrapped up in her emotions. I loved how genuine and candid she was, not ashamed to show her passion, but also able to laugh at herself and admit her shortcomings. Étienne is also a three-dimensional, convincing character. He practically jumps off the page– all of Perkins’s characters do. Believable, tangible characters and realistic dialogue are this author’s greatest strengths. I also enjoyed the travel aspect of the novel, as Anna adjusts to the culture shock of life in Paris.

Anna and the French Kiss is a sweet (and at times heartbreaking) romance for young adults. One scene that sticks with me is Anna and Étienne’s bittersweet Thanksgiving holiday in Paris. This book is light and funny, yet heartfelt, sometimes tear-jerking. A good read.

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