Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Published December 2nd 2010 by Dutton
More at: Goodreads
Ah Paris. City of Lights! City of Love! Home to such famed objets d'art as La Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, and the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, and, well The School of America- which just doesn't have quite the same ring to it does it? School of America. A fancy, private, boarding school, where American parents can send their overly desensitized children to experience French culture. It's also a swanky place to send them that looks great on a college application.
For Anna, it's not an experience, it's a disaster. Her father, author of many atrocious melodramas turned blockbusters on the big screen, thinks it's a great place for her to acquire a bit of polish, and it's the kind of thing you'd expect a big shot, Hollywood sell out to do. With a life, a best friend and a hot co-worker in Atlanta, Anna has no desire to spend her senior year in some snotty French school eating snails. She doesn't even speak French- how would she even know if she ordered them?
Translator and tour guide present themselves in the form of Etienne St. Clair, classmate, jokester, friend to all and gorgeous guy with an English accent that let's him get away with most anything. It would be impossible to resist such proffered friendship, especially when Anna is stuck in a foreign country, missing her old life back in Atlanta. Who could say no to that quirky, crooked smile, that accent, the flirtation...the fluttery feeling when he looks at her and only her, that way. Everything about him is perfect- except the fact that he has a girlfriend.
I was -dying- (written in italics and hyphenated to convey the intensity of the booklust with which I longed for this book) to read this. As expected, it was so very lovely that when I finished I had this silly, ridiculous smile on my face. Perkins captured youthful tummy flutters like no one I've ever read. This is why I love YA- I can remember (and relive) that this is what it felt like (and sometimes still does).
I bore my eyes into the screen, trying my best to prove that I am Really Interested in this movie. St. Clair stiffens but doesn't move his leg. Is he holding his breath? I think he is. I'm holding mine. I exhale and cringe- it's so loud and unnatural.
Again. Another glance. This time I turn, automatically, just as he's turning away. It's a dance, and now there's a feeling in the air like one of us should say something. Focus, Anna. Focus. "Do you like it? I whisper.
He pauses. "The film?"
I'm thankful the shadows hide my blush.
"I like it very much." he says.
I risk a glance, and St. Clair stares back. Deeply. He has not looked at me like this before. I turn away first, then feel him turn a few beats later.
I know he is smiling, and my heart races.
Anna was a gem- sarcastic, witty and prone to inducing full out hysterics. I adored her method of rationalization on a very personal level- we are both a touch (perhaps too much) OCD, which made us instant friends. Her gradual exploration and conquering of Paris, tentative and distrusting at first, gained her a new found independence that made me adore her all the more. I would be terrified to be alone in a foreign country, but I wouldn't let it stop me from having little adventures, and neither did Anna.
As a friend, Etienne was a wonder. He knew all the right things to do and say to make Anna feel at ease. This is the charming St. Clair that I can understand anyone fighting to be friends with. As a potential romance, he and I didn't quite see eye to eye. I don't buy "confusion" as an excuse for utterly thoughtless behavior in a guy. I want to think that he is completely oblivious to the mix messages he sends and I'm willing to overlook it on the grounds that he grows up perfect to atone. I admit I couldn't stay mad at him- I wouldn't be able to resist the accent either.
Poor Anna! It's a terrible dilemma to have feelings for someone who is already spoken for and always analyzing every word and movement in hopes that they mean, in their own secret, private way, that she is the one he really wants.
This is a wonderful story in which an American girl falls in love, in Paris. You shouldn't need any further enticement to read it than that.
Perkins won me over with her story telling. Like I said, capturing subtle, delicate, budding emotions is her strong point and I don't think it's a talent that many could boast of. I very much look forward to her next book.
Special thanks to a lovely book fairy for sending me this story to love. Miz Perkin's book is out now and you deserve to give yourself an early holiday present.
How'd ya like all those fancy highfalutin French words? I bet a few of them are even spelled correctly. That's today's word boys and girls- highfalutin.
*Quotes taken from an ARC of Anna and the French Kiss and may differ in the final copy.