Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Released: December 2, 2010
Genre: YA Romance
Author's Website: http://www.stephanieperkins.com/
Anna is furious at being shipped off to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year, just because her father wants to appear cultured. She arrives with the intention of being perfectly miserable all year, but she immediately meets a great group of friends who help her adjust and even like Paris. And to top it off, part of that group is Etienne St. Clair, the gorgeous guy that half the female student body is in love with. Of course, nothing can happen between them - St. Clair has a girlfriend, and Anna has a sort-of boyfriend back in Atlanta. But their friendship is undeniably something special, and as things progress, Anna finds herself wondering more and more - will anything ever happen between them?
Fun and flirty, sweet and sensitive, insightful and thoughtful - Anna and the French Kiss has all of it! I love how the tone of the story changes with Anna's changed perceptions, and with the events taking place that effect these changes. The beginning of the book is light and funny, just the way new friends in a foreign country would be, and it segues so smoothly into the heavier themes and sadder events of the middle and last parts of the story. I found myself laughing out loud at many points through the middle of the book, and I felt achingly overwhelmed by tears at many points in the latter half of the book. The way Stephanie balances the two is absolutely brilliant and makes for such a rich, fulfilling emotional experience.
The themes of the story are really subtly woven into the story, but they come across quite clearly and strongly when you think about the story. The intricacy of relationships, of who's dating whom and who's available at what point in time, becomes so alive as all the characters, even the peripheral characters, juggle all the relationships in their lives. Many times, especially in YA novels, characters focus on one relationship that defines the story. I love how Anna deals with her father, her mother, her brother, her best friend back home, her ex-boyfriend and maybe-boyfriend in Atlanta, her new friends in Paris, Etienne, and the "other" groups in school. Every character is like that - dealing with myriad relationships - because isn't that the way it is in real life? Stephanie manages somehow to glide from one to the next and make it all come together and bloom with a life of its own.
And I absolutely love the way Anna and Etienne both have to learn lessons of self-knowledge and self-realization. This, again, is incorporated so well into the actual story but is so clear, when they examine their reactions, have huge fights, and have excruciatingly honest conversations. These are some of the parts that made me almost cry, as the two of them deal with betrayal, conflicting feelings, confusing messages, and so much other baggage.
So what started out a light, fun read turned into something so much more substantial, and it is a story that will stay with me for a long long while!