Book review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Lovelorn teenagers will be fighting to get their hands on the latest reading sensation as debut novelist Stephanie Perkins dishes up a romantic teaser that restores our faith in the sweet and addictive charms of young love.
Anna and the French Kiss is all those things that girls long for… a fun, refreshing and life-affirming story which convinces us that love really does make the world go round.
Take a 17-year-old all-American girl, send her on an adventure to the eternally romantic city of Paris and you get a youthfully exuberant rom-com with a charismatic cast and a French feast of feel-good, feels-real love play.
Anna Oliphant from Atlanta has been enrolled at the School of America in Paris because her famous novelist father has declared that living abroad for a year will be ‘a good learning experience.’
Wise Anna suspects that ‘this whole international boarding school thing’ is a lot more about her father than it is about her. Since his cheesy books have become bestsellers and money-spinning movies, he has been trying to impress his friends with how cultured he is.
Whatever the thinking, she has been dumped in a school for ‘pretentious Americans who don’t like the company of their own children’ and she’s missing her best friend, her part-time job, her fabulous new boyfriend and her little brother.
Fortunately she’s making some amazing new friends, including Étienne St Clair, the half-French dreamboat with suitably messy hair, a crooked-tooth smile and a ‘swaggery walk.’
Every girl in the school is in love with him even though has a serious girlfriend. It’s not exactly love at first sight for Anna although she is soon finding it difficult to concentrate in class, she feels his stare ‘as if it were the heat of the sun’ and he makes her wish she wasn’t just another stupid girl holding out for something that will never happen.
‘Argh! Boys turn girls into such idiots!’ she despairs but that doesn’t stop her falling for his charms. And in Paris, anything could happen… will Anna’s year end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?
Perkins works some real magic in this beautiful, perfectly pitched, contemporary and yet achingly traditional teen romance which captures all the angst, sexual tensions and unparalleled joys of young love.
Throughout, she plays a subtle game, allowing the funny, fascinating and fiercely intense relationship between awkward, unsure Anna and the hilarious, handsome St Clair to unfold in heart-melting, slow-motion detail.
The supporting cast of good guys and bad guys, the ‘will-they, won’t they’ conundrum and the excitement of Europe’s City of Light add to all the entertainment, ensuring that there will be no pause until the last page has turned.
And the good news is that there are two more books to come in this sparkling series – Isla and the Happily Ever After and Lola and the Boy Next Door.
So who said romance was dead?
(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)