Author: Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss Companion trilogy Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
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SYNOPSIS:”Anna has everything figured out – she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere… Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.
But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including Etienne, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he’s taken – and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-missed end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?”
DISCLAIMER: The review may contain minor spoilers, so read at your own risk.
I’ve always been recommended novels by Stephanie Perkins because she’s known as the queen of contemporary, but I was always so intimidated by the hype. I was afraid it would be one of those cases where you read a popular book where every man and his dog love it, but you find it to be literal trash. So after months upon months of nagging from one of my closest friends, I finally gained the courage and gave in to the temptation. I’m so glad I did!
This novel is about a girl named Anna who is sent to the School of America in Paris (or SOAP for short) to complete her final year of high school. She is there unwillingly as her father, a famous yet cliché author, so she can experience other cultures and as a way to brag to his friends. While she’s there she has to over come many obstacles, with the main one being the strong language barrier causing her to feel inferior and nervous to leave her room. She was forced to leave her mother and brother, her best friend Bridgette and a somewhat boyfriend at home, which soon becomes a challenge in regards to communication as they are living such drastically different lifestyles. When she feels like her life has gone to shit: enter Étienne St Clair. He is a sweet little lad with the irresistible English accent that makes all the ladies swoon, and better yet he is actually a great guy which is an incredibly rare characteristic in teenage boys! The two are introduced through a mutual friend and he makes Anna’s life a whole lot more difficult and better at the same time!
So as you can imagine from a Young Adult contemporary, this book is full of teen angst and an incredibly handsome man. The beginning of the novel focuses on Anna moving to the foreign country and making a name for herself. This includes finding a group of friends that support her during the transition and exploring the outside world to find a place where she feels at home, in this case it’s the numerous cinemas scattered around SOAP. However, lucky for her Étienne St Clair is with her from day one, and they become really close friends almost instantly. He helps her with her abysmal French skills, talks with her about her problems at home, and is always thinking up various ways to boost her mood. He’s the first to take her out to explore the city by taking her to various museums and churches- just the typical tourist sites. However, over the months they grow closer and closer until Étienne admits his feels for her while drunk after a night of partying away his sorrows. Anna is placed into a tricky situation as he is in a committed relationship, and has been for year, and try’s not to let her feelings get in the way that. More sexual frustration is the result of that decision, yet she pretends not to feel that way as they both need the friendship more than ever due to personal issues. As the story progressed, so did their relationship to the point that everything they did had this underlying sense of desire and love (and my heart bursting with adoration).
The relationship in this book is so successful because it feels real and raw. They started off as best friends and it evolved from that point, which mirrors a lot of teenage relationships. They were there for each other when they needed it the most, which probably created more tension and heartbreak. Anna and Étienne both undeniably had feelings for each other, yet hid them to protect the friendship. What I loved the most was that they had petty little arguments, because in most YA contemporaries authors completely skip over this flaw and create the perfect realtionship although it always feels overly fabricated. When the two were mad and ignoring each other it added another layer of authenticity.
The only thing I didn’t love about this novel is that it felt a little bit repetitive at times. Anna and St Clair were really great buddies, then one of them would say or do something awkward then they would have an argument that lasts about a week. Only the last day one of them would apologies because the past week without the other was hell and all of those cliché comments about ‘how my life is so much better with you in it’. They’d be all hunky dory again, then it would happen all over again! The pair were always in one of two stages: love or hatred, and there was nothing in between.
I would be lying if I said that this novel wasn’t highly predictable, but I feel like that adds to the charm. It’s an easy and lighthearted read that will pull you in instantly due to the feel good nature. You don’t have to be one hundred percent invested in the characters and story to have a great time reading it; you can fully immerse yourself into this world because it feels so real and relatable (although I myself have never been sent to a foreign school for wealthy and successful students). I know see why this book is a must read for Young Adult Contemporary lovers, and I’ve heard that this series increasingly gets better so excuse me while I jump directly into the sequel Lola and the Boy Next Door.