Anna and the French Kiss, published by Dutton/Penguin in Dec. 2010
Author: Stephanie Perkins
I'm not sure where I first heard of Anna and the French Kiss, but everything I have heard has been positive. Actually, positively glowing would be more like it. While I don't review many YA books for My Comfy Chair, my curiosity was piqued, so I picked up a copy.
At its base structural level, this is pretty standard YA romance fare with heartthrobs and heartbreak and misunderstandings. What raises this book so far above its genre is the sheer appeal of its characters, and the believability of their reactions to the people and situations they face.
Anna Oliphant is looking forward to her senior year of high school in Atlanta, but her newly famous father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris. Rough life, but Anna isn't happy to leave behind her best friend and familiar life. What follows is a blend of humor and melodrama as Anna falls for the gorgeous Étienne St. Clair with his to-die-for English accent and his very steady girlfriend. He even seems to like her back, but throughout the tumultuous, emotional year, they can't seem to get on the same page.
As I said, standard fare, except that Stephanie Perkins has imbued these characters with all of the anguish, but little of the angst, of real teenagers coming of age and sorting through their feelings for parents, friends and love interests. Instead of rolling your eyes as the latest complication keeps Anna and Étienne apart, you find yourself cheering them on.
There is enough sexual tension that very young teens might be uncomfortable, but not enough that parents need worry. After all, what Anna longs for is indicated in the title. You'll have to read the book to see if she gets it.
I heartily recommend this for teenage girls who will love both the exotic Étienne and the city of Paris which provides a backdrop to the story, although not from a tourist point of view, but a teenager in a strange land point of view. I even think teenage boys might be interested, if only to get a glimpse of what the girls around them are really like. Of course, I couldn't blame any parents who picked this up and couldn't put it down again either. I was supposed to save it for a trip, and couldn't stop reading it.
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