23 January 2013

Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)

Oh my gosh. Guys. I loved Stephanie Perkins' Paris-set YA romance Anna and the French Kiss. I loved it so much that I am going to violate my most cardinal rule, the one about not talking about books as if they are romantic partners, because I've noticed a lot of lady bloggers do that and I think it is gross . . . but.

I kind of wanna marry this book.

I mean, I waited two full days before I started reading something else, and I usually put my next book in my purse when I'm 30 or so pages from the end of something so I don't have to spend even one minute not reading. I was so melancholy when it was over, not cause it doesn't end happily AT LONG LAST GEEZ, but because I wasn't reading it anymore. Really, I haven't been so captivated by a book in a while. (Maybe NW was the last one? Ha. I'll lay euros to eclairs I'm the only reviewer to compare Perkins to Zadie Smith.)

Obviously, my experience with YA is different from that of a for-realsies young adult, for whom I imagine this would read as aspiration--for me it's nostalgia, and a sort of sweet contentment with where I've ended up. (I was trying to find a single word for the latter feeling, cause I'm sure some language has it, but instead I'm going to quote Eudora Welty: "Content like a little white kitty in a basket.")

Our heroine, Anna (such a good name for a heroine, right? And she's dyed a blond streak in her hair, which I totally did at her age), is packed off to the School of America in Paris for her senior year by her hilariously Nick-Sparksian father, author of books with one-word titles where people fall in love and then contract terminal diseases. She's furious, and scared, and she doesn't even speak French. Luckily, her next-door neighbor, Meredith, is sweet and welcoming, with a ready-made group of friends for Anna to fall into . . . including half-French, half-American, London-raised √Čtienne St. Clair, who's funny and smart and impossibly gorgeous. The only problem is his longtime girlfriend, in college across town.

This may be the best book I've ever read about falling in love. There's wild attraction, of course--and it's YA, so it's allllllll tension, all unspoken longings and impassioned glances and OMG his leg is touching mine in the movie theater is that on purpose? and . . . excuse me, I'll be on Holodeck Four.

BUT. Attraction is easy, and easy to write about. What amazes me about Anna is that it's just as much about the process of falling in love with a person, a whole one, an individual. So we learn with Anna not just that St. Clair is the hottest thing on four wheels, but that he's short, and scared of heights, and hates his father, and afraid of change. And Perkins doesn't rely overmuch on the "we talked for hours" narrative dodge--no, they talk and talk, and their dialogue is natural and funny and awesome. Though it's not all sweetness and light, either--they hurt and are hurt, and yell and bicker, and carry around stresses of their own. It's a real relationship, and it's a joy to read about.

Now I'm getting melancholy again, as this post comes to an end, because it's another step away from the book. But I know I'll have scenes and characters replaying in my head for a long time. I snapped up her follow-up, Lola and the Boy Next Door, right away, hardcover schmardcover, and I'm SO MAD I'll have left NYC by September when the last of the trio, Isla and the Happily Ever After, comes out, because I won't be able to squee about it in person with the co-worker who'd been after me to read Anna for like a year. We'll just be monopolizing each other's Twitter feeds, I suspect.

And to my husband, who is no doubt faux-belligerent over me saying I want to marry something else: it's because, sweetie, it reminds me of falling in love with you. Which I still do, every day.


  1. Faux-belligerent?!? Next time I see that book I swear I'm going to punch it right in the spine.

  2. Try it, Andersen, and you'll get a French flap in the face.


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