Thursday, November 14, 2013

What we're reading: Romance

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
Description: Contemporary, "chick-lit," romance.

Did I like it? Well, yes. Am I a little bit embarrassed that I liked it so much? Well, maybe.

One person on Goodreads described it as Teen Angst-meter: 10, and she wasn't wrong.

The protagonist was kind of an idiot. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed her perspective, but...idiot.

The love interest was kind of a jerk. In an apologetic, passive, I-can't-help-myself kind of way, but still...jerk.

BUT...
  1. Set in Paris. Boarding school in Paris. Did I say Paris?
  2. Really cool friends at the boarding school in Paris. I wanted to know them, hang with them, learn their secrets. They kinda reminded me of the crew in Looking for Alaska, by John Green, which is a high compliment. Perkins wrote them well.
  3. Lurve. The angst-ing was over an American boy with a British accent who also speaks French, and who has great hair and a quirky style and is nice despite his indecisive and leading-them-on ways with the ladies.
Need I say more? Okay, I will.

Anna lives in Atlanta, and is all set to enter her senior year with her best friend, and just made a connection with her crush, the guy she works with at the local movie theater, when...drumroll...her dad (who wrote a couple of bestselling tearjerkers, divorced her mom, and turned insufferable) suddenly swoops in and decides she's going to SOAP, the School of America in Paris, for her senior year instead. She knows she would have been leaving for college in a year anyway, but resents that she has to go a year too soon, and to a place where she doesn't even speak the language! And boarding school? Puh-leeze.

This is the set-up. Here are my problems with the set-up:
  1. What teen in his or her right mind wouldn't want to spend a year in Paris? Intimidated by the language and by being with strangers instead of friends for your senior year, and not really your idea, but still...beyond a point you get over it, because it's PARIS.
  2. WHY was Anna's father so insistent that she go? Yes, it's good for her, yes, he thinks he's giving her the opportunity of a lifetime, yes, sometimes divorced parents like to throw their weight around just because they can, but...it happens so abruptly, and she is so resistant to it while he is so insistent that she go, it makes you think something's up--like he's trying to get her away from her mom, or away from a boyfriend who's bad news, or away from SOMETHING--so you figure you'll find out sooner or later, but...you don't. Nothing, nada, no good reason ever given. It's a small thing, but it bugged me!
Beyond those issues, the rest of the book was quite enjoyable. The friend who is also her unrequited crush because he's someone else's boyfriend is...what else can I say but hot? He's hot. He's endearing. He's definitely crush-worthy. His name is Etienne St. Clair, and he has an American parent and a French parent but was raised in London, so he's got it ALL going on. Plus he likes her. But...apparently not quite enough to break up with the girlfriend. So they dance around each other, misunderstanding one another's signals, for most of the book. As I said above, Teen Angst reigns supreme. Making up for that, they are interesting, well-fleshed-out, engaging characters, whom you either want to know or to be, and it's set in Paris. Did I mention that?

So--if you want a contemporary romance you can sink your teeth into...read Anna and the French Kiss.

A couple of interesting details:

Stephanie Perkins (how cute is she?) started writing this book during NANOWRIMO, which is National Novel Writing Month, which is November! (i.e., now!) So...it can be done! (Although my impression is that it took her a lot longer to turn it into a real novel.)

The second book, which is called a "companion" book to Anna (which I can't quite figure out, since as far as I can tell it does NOT happen in Paris) is Lola and the Boy Next Door, which we also have at the library (just released in July). She also has a new book coming out in 2014, called Isla and the Happily Ever After. If you have read Anna, you will remember a brief mention of Isla as a dorm-mate of Anna, and her love interest is Josh, formerly of Josh-and-Rashmi in Anna. Apparently this book brings them all together and wraps things up in "a sweeping finale," according to Perkins's website.

So--some more contemporary romance to anticipate!



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