Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

“Welcome to Paris, Anna. I’m glad you’ve come.”

16605536This review contains *spoilers*.

This follows Anna, who is being sent away to SOAP, a boarding school in Paris, for her senior year of high school. It uncovers her journey throughout the school year interacting with new friends, trying to overcome fears, and maybe even develop a slight crush.

Speaking of the devil, Étienne has a special place in my heart (not as much as Ronan, but still there). I read this trilogy around this time last year, and it got me intro reading obsessively because of its great characters and phenomenal interactions.
And I’m embarrassed to admit that on my reread, I discovered that I’ve been pronouncing Étienne’s name wrong

“He raps twice on Meredith’s door. “Well. I’ll see you around then, Anna.”
Eh-t-yen says my name like this: Ah-na.
My heart thump thump thumps in my chest.”

Am I the only one that’s been pronouncing it as Eh-ten-ye?

I also realized how much I missed these characters and their humor:

“I’m such a wuss. I’d rather starve than try to order in French. “Oui, oui!” I’d say, pointing at random words on the chalkboard. Then Chef Handlebar would present me with something revolting, and I’d have to buy it out of shame. Of course I meant to order the roasted pigeon! Mmm! Just like Nanna’s.”

But my favorite, favorite parts were with Anna and Étienne at the airport and their Christmas breaks apart because their conversations over the phone and email were positively heart-wrenching. It’s those parts that I come back to and read over and over. Actually (fun fact), a few months back I started to reread from that part and somehow I finished the whole book without even noticing.

“I explode out of bed. I overslept! I can’t believe I overslept! How could this happen?
St. Clair’s boots clomp away, and his suitcase drags heavily behind him. I throw open my door. Even though they’re dimmed this time of night, the crystal sconces in the hall make me blink and shade my eyes.
St. Clair twists into focus. He’s stunned. “Anna?”
“Help,” I gasp. “Help me.”
Too funny.

“At least I have a window seat. The middle and aisle are occupied with more businessmen. I’m reaching for my book again—it’s going to be a long flight—when a polite English accent speaks to the man beside me.
“Pardon me, but I wonder if you wouldn’t mind switching seats.You see, that’s my girlfriend there, and she’s pregnant. And since she gets a bit ill on airplanes, I thought she might need someone to hold back her hair when . . . well . . .” St. Clair holds up the courtesy barf bag and shakes it around.The paper crinkles dramatically.”

“After a few hours, he grows sleepy. His head sinks against my shoulder. I don’t dare move.The sun is coming up, and the sky is pink and orange and makes me think of sherbet. I sniff his hair. Not out of weirdness. It’s just . . . there.”
Too sweet.

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And then Anna gets to visit her family, and it was so good going back:

“Oh. Hey, I have something for you.” I unzip my backpack and pull out a plastic shell. It’s an original StarWars Sand Person. The purchase on eBay ate my entire meal fund one week, but it was worth it. He really wants this. I was saving it for later, but he clearly needs coaxing back to my side.
I hold up the package.The angry little figurine glares into the backseat. “Merry early Christmas!”
Seany crosses his arms. “I already have that one. Bridge got him for me.”
“Sean! What did I say “about thanking people? Tell your sister thank you. She must have gone through a lot of trouble to get that for you.”
“It’s okay,” I mumble, placing the toy back in my bag. It’s amazing how small a resentful seven-year-old can make me feel.”

I could really relate to how she was feeling, and I’m glad they got to make up later.
Stephanie Perkins’ relationships between every character adds something so unique and needed to the story. Just so good.

“Sand People don’t kiss! They ATTACK! RARRRRR!” He steals this one, too, but then pauses to examine its bumpy little head. “Why aren’t you talking to Bridge?” he asks suddenly. “Did she hurt your feelings?”
I’m startled. “Yes, Sean. She did something that wasn’t very nice.”
“Does that mean she’s not going to babysit me anymore?”
“No, I’m sure she will. She likes you.”
“I don’t like her.”
“Sean!”
“She made you cry.You cry all the time now.” He throws the Sand Person in the bottom of his box. “Do you still have the one you bought me?”

And, of course, she and Étienne resume with their flirting and teasing (favorite favorite favorite)-

“To: Anna Oliphant <bananaelephant@femmefilmfreak.net>
From: Étienne St. Clair <etiennebonaparte@soap.fr>
Subject: Are you mad?
My day was boring. Your day was a nightmare. Are you all right?

To: Étienne St. Clair <etiennebonaparte@soap.fr>
From: Anna Oliphant <bananaelephant@femmefilmfreak.net>
Subject: Re: Are you mad?
I’m okay. I’m just glad I have you to talk to.

To: Anna Oliphant <bananaelephant@femmefilmfreak.net>
From: Étienne St. Clair <etiennebonaparte@soap.fr>
Subject: So . . .
Does that mean I can call you now?”
Yes Yes Yes.

And their reunion was so, so sweet:

“The closer I get, the more overwhelming it gets. The Panthéon is huge. The steps seem so far away.
He looks up.
Our eyes lock, and he breaks into a slow smile. My heart beats faster and faster. Almost there. He sets down his book and stands. And then this—the moment he calls my name—is the real moment everything changes.
He is no longer St. Clair, everyone’s pal, everyone’s friend.
He is Étienne. Étienne, like the night we met. He is Étienne; he is my friend.
He is so much more.”

This whole story really reminded me of the movie LOL (both the French and American version), especially the two main characters in the French version (Maël and Lola).

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So naturally I had to listen to the soundtrack of the movie while reading Anna. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

Also, I loved the subtle foreshadowing Stephanie added in here for the next books:
“The teacher bangs another desk, and the redhead to my left jumps and drops her papers.
I lean over to help her pick them up, and I’m startled to discover an entire page of doodles of a familiar skull tattoo. I look up in surprise, and her face burns as red as her hair. I glance toward Josh and then raise my eyebrows at her. Her eyes widen in horror, but I shake my head and smile. I won’t tell.
What’s her name? Isla. Isla Martin. She lives on my floor, but she’s so quiet I often forget about her. She’ll have to be louder if she likes Josh. They’re both shy. It’s a shame, because they’d look cute together.”

But I discovered this time around that I didn’t quite enjoy the relationship between Anna and St. Clair as much as the first time because of the whole cheating— I’d be really into their conversations and teasing, but then Ellie would pop up in my mind and it just wasn’t right. Especially when Anna would mention Ellie.

“There’s only one thing I don’t love about him. Her.
If I didn’t like Ellie before, it’s nothing compared to how I feel now. It doesn’t matter that I can count how many times we’ve met on one hand. It’s that first image, that’s what I can’t shake. Under the streetlamp. Her fingers in his hair. Anytime I’m alone, my mind wanders back to that night. I take it further. She touches his chest. I take it further. His bedroom. He slips off her dress, their lips lock, their bodies press, and—oh my God—my temperature rises, and my stomach is sick.”

But I can’t deny the fact that Stephanie Perkins knows how to tug at my heartstrings. Because after all this time I still hold Anna and St. Clair dear to my heart. Anna and the French Kiss is an incredible contemporary novel that has stayed and will stay with me for a long time.
If you’re looking for something you won’t be able to put down, you’re going to want to read this book.

4/5 stars

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