Book Review: Anna And The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss is a tale about Anna (Banana) Oliphant (Elephant) who, against her wishes, was sent by her father to Paris to finish high school at the School of America. There, she battled homesickness (for a while) but thankfully she made new friends – the soccer player Meredith, the lovers Rashmi and Josh, and of course, the best-bud-cute-boy-with-the-most-beautiful-hair, Etienne St. Clair. Anna eventually found herself liking St. Clair too much, but the cute boy with the most gorgeous hair already has a girlfriend, and Anna has also an almost-boyfriend Toph, while Meredith has the hots for Etienne, and so Anna has to hold off her feelings or else everything will just turn into chaos. You might already know the drill. Anna fights her feelings not to fall in love with her bestfriend, but she gets more confused because Etienne seems to give away signs that he likes Anna too. All these, plus the anger they both hold against their fathers, and the troubles they have with their present romantic relationships, are woven together in a lovely setting which is France.

There is nothing very spectacular about the story, except maybe that it is set in the exquisite city of France. Who wouldn’t be enthralled by all things French? The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, River Seine… I admit my French history has slightly improved after reading this book and of course, more than ever I dream of going to France someday. But other than that, Anna and the French Kiss did nothing more to me except make me feel that I’m old. Wait, I already said that, didn’t I?

For a predictable, feel good story, Anna and the French Kiss is frustratingly long. I feel like there was a conscious effort to pad the story with other useless bits such as that scene about Nicole taking Anna’s side during her fight with Amanda, or that scene in detention with St. Clair ignoring Anna. Really, how many times do you need to emphasize that St. Clair is ignoring Anna? And I cannot just get into Anna’s character. I understand her troubles, yes, being alone in a foreign country and in a new school kind of sucks, but I think some of her reactions are just bordering, if not already, on the exaggerated side. And I cannot even be sympathetic with Etienne. Or maybe I’m missing something here? Oh high school, you seem so long ago.

But despite these shortcomings, there are still cute, feel-good, mushy lines I like from this teeny-bopper story, such as this:

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”

Or this:

“I wish friends held hands more often, like the children I see on the streets sometimes. I’m not sure why we have to grow up and get embarrassed about it.”

I especially like this somewhat profound line, something that never goes old:

“Why is it that the right people never wind up together? Why are people so afraid to leave a relationship, even if they know it’s a bad one?”

All said, I have to give in to generosity and give this a higher rating than I would had I focused more on how perfect and lovely Etienne’s hair was and how his hands were not boy-hands. Oh, please.