Perkins, Stephanie. Anna and the French Kiss. 372 p. Dutton. 2010. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9780525423270.
I'd heard so much about this book and deliberately held off reading it for a while. Why would one do that to a perfectly good book? See, I KNEW I would love it. So I was saving it for a time when I was in a reading slump and needed an absolutely wonderful read to perk me back up. I was waiting, ready to savor the reading experience when I would need it the most. As it happens, I ended up reading it just before our Authors Are ROCKSTARS! interview with Stephanie Perkins, Andrea Cremer, and Kiersten White, so I wasn't actually in a slump. But just as I had predicted, I loved, loved, loved this book.
It's the story of an American girl reluctantly transplanted in Paris. And of course, in a city known for its romance, she meets a boy. A shame he has a girlfriend, but they can just be friends, right...?
This book took me right back to the month I spent studying in Paris at the Sorbonne in 1998. In fact, I'm itching to book a plane ticket there RIGHT NOW! (Alas, my husband, toddler, and baby might have something to say about that.)
I lived at the Cité Universitaire, international student housing, so Anna's dorm experience was nostalgic for me. The dining hall where I lived made the fluffiest, most delicious omelettes imaginable to which I will forevermore compare all other omelettes... and they will never, ever measure up-- they were made to order, and each one was like a work of art-- but I digress. Sorry, I got caught up in French food nostalgia!
I love the details of Paris in this book. Despite the fact that Perkins had never been to Paris before she wrote Anna, she got it all amazingly, wonderfully right through the power of research. The Latin quarter! Shakespeare & Company bookstore! Standing on point zero in front of Notre Dame! Francophiles will love this.
Much has been said in other reviews about Perkins' ability to write Anna as an authentic teen, and I agree. Anna is an appealing, well-rounded character with relatable flaws and quirks, and her realistic, sometimes sarcastic, voice makes the book such a pleasure to read as she gains confidence in her new surroundings and in herself. And of course, her love interest, St. Clair... what can I say? A charming, self-deprecating guy with a British accent? Well. I think most of us would be happy to read entire volumes about him.
Anna's story of self-discovery and romance stands alone, but there are two more companion novels to look forward to. Lola and the Boy Next Door will hit bookstores in late September, and I can't wait to read it.