Anna, an aspiring film critic and blogger extraordinaire, is about to enter into her senior year of high school. Life in Atlanta is going pretty well for her. She’s got a cool job at the local movie theater, an awesome best friend, and a super hot crush that is finally starting to show signs that he likes her back. But, when things seem too good to be true, they usually are. Just as Anna’s life is looking up in all the right ways, her dad drops the bomb that she will be spending her senior year at The School of America in Paris, which is (in Anna’s mind) a boarding school where pretentious parents send their pretentious kids to get a pretentious “cultural education.”
Shortly after arriving in Paris, she is welcomed in to a group of friends that have been together for years. This group includes Merideth, her next door neighbor, Rashmi and Josh, who have been together forever, and Etienne St. Clair (doesn’t that name just melt on your tongue?,) the quintessential hot guy that everybody loves, including his girlfriend, who attends a nearby university. In a series of near-misses, will they or won’t theys, what the hells, and c’mon reallys, Anna and the French Kiss tugs on all the heart strings, gives you all the feels, and plants you right back in high school.
I’ll admit it, this book was as sweet and fluffy as they come. It was a big old cloud of cotton candy with ooey gooey caramel dip on the side (I don’t think that’s a thing, but it should be!). But, in a genre that as of late has been inundated with the paranormal and high fantasy, Anna and the French Kiss was a sucker punch of normal that I really needed. Don’t get me wrong, I love the vampire falls in love with a zombie while discovering witchcraft at the end of the world stuff as much as the next person, but sometimes, you just need to read a book where everything in the book is actually possible.
I can see why some readers would get frustrated with the back and forth between Anna and St. Clair, but I actually think it was perfect. I’ve been in high school, taught high school, and have some cousins and such that attend high school. From the insecurity that every teen faces, to the complicated relationships that many have with their parents, to the inevitable bullying and subterfuge that occurs in every high school, the world that Stephanie Perkins has created in Anna and the French Kiss is spot on!
Another thing that’s done really well in this novel was highlighting diversity. Not a single character in this book was “normal”. Rashmi speaks Hindi, St. Clair has an unpleasant relationship with his father, and Anna has a gap between her teeth “the size of a raisin”. I love the way that Stephanie Perkins makes these differences known, works them into the plot of the story, but doesn’t make them the main focus. So many novels, in an attempt to celebrate diversity, make “character flaws” the main point and something that must be overcome. In this book, just like in high school, they are simply an accepted part of life and not a big deal.
While I did have my moments of inwardly screaming at certain characters, I absolutely fell in love with Anna and the French Kiss. For what it was, it was absolutely perfect in every conceivable way. It made me laugh, cry, and gave me that all important heart fluttering that every reader loves. I know I’m the last person on earth to discover this novel, but, in a way, I’m glad for it. While this book is fabulous as a stand-alone, imagine my mirth when I discovered that there isn’t just one sequel, but TWO! Unlike readers that discovered this series years ago, I get to reignite my flame with these characters at my leisure, rather than anticipating the next in the saga with bated breath. I simply cannot wait to get my grubby little hands on Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After!