Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

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(courtesy of Goodreads)

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I have been avoiding this book every since I heard about it the first time. Its name mortified me; its cover wedged itself between me and the thought of ever coming near it. I also worried it was a book about a girl obsessed with kissing people, like some sort of chronic psychological problem or something. Yet, when I saw it on the favourites list of so many people, considered by some as one of the best books they’ve read in 2012, my blind dislike for it softened a bit. And one day, on a whim, I found myself getting the e-book and lunging headfirst into it.

I can’t say I regret it because I don’t. I was worried about this book being too trivial, too senseless. I worried that I’ll have to abandon it midway. And on both fronts, I was surprised.

In a way, I expected something special in the book because of the public’s admiration for it. I kept reading on and on, trying to figure out what was it that made people like this book so much. And surprisingly, I didn’t really find this ‘thing’.  But for this particular reason, my persistence to dig out what makes this book special, I was stuck to the book for an entire day. That was all it took for me to finish it –a day. And I don’t even know why or how that happened.

Do I make any sense? Perhaps we should get past expectations and the related sentiments.

I’ll start by discussing something I really liked about the book, which is its setting! Paris, France gives this air of lightness to whatever it’s included in. Once the word Paris is mentioned, you get this certain image in your head of different streets, of European people,  of Parisian fashion. Or that’s what it’s like to me. I think Stephanie Perkins has done a fine job with including enough of Paris in the story. Though I’ve never been to Paris, I could tell that she’s done her research really well and that she has applied it to the story sufficiently. I especially liked the little details she’s taken the time to mention every now and then –food, clothes, Shakespeare and Co. So yeah, that’s one of the reasons I gave this book stars!

Now, let’s talk about Anna herself. She’s the girl who hates her parents who are sending her off to a private, expensive school in Paris. Isn’t that blasphemous? I mean, I understand that each person has inertia, a tendency to keep things stable, especially in the last year of high school. No one wants to abandon their lives at such a critical time! Yet, I do believe that any believable character would have, even if only slightly, admired something about moving to Paris. Because, you know, it’s Paris? Or is this just me? So yeah, basically, I disliked Anna because I didn’t understand her attitude about almost everything. For more than half of the book, she tried to undermine everything and everyone around her except for Etienne. And even when it comes to Etienne, the way she described him and pined after him bothered me. She was too clingy, too desperate, too delusional. It was like she didn’t know the shade gray; to her, things were either dreadful or worship-worthy. Anna kept on repeating the things she liked about Etienne –his hair, par example– that, at some point, it became more repelling than appealing. Or maybe I’m just jealous because I want to find someone like Etienne? I like people who are cosmopolitan.

Honestly, until this moment, I hadn’t realised what I like about Etienne. I certainly do admire his tri-nationality thing –especially the British accent and the fact that he speaks French. I like that he is so interested in history and makes it sound interesting when he talks about it. I like how nice he was to Anna. Definitely, were I in Anna’s place, I’d want someone like Etienne to help me around. The moment I admired Etienne the most, though, was when he explained that he was scared of being lonely. It just made him seem very human.

Ahem. So yeah. If you’re confused then I’m certainly channeling my thoughts well here because I still don’t know how I feel about this book. I’ve finished it in a day, yes. I don’t have a ton of complaints regarding it, but I still don’t feel that it has wowed me. At all.

The thing I’ve come to realise, though, is that I probably hate Anna because I’ll be her next year. Next year, I’ll be moving to another country for college. Therefore, I’ll be put in the same situation except that I won’t be in Paris, so I won’t be surrounded by enchanting sites, good food, or good-looking people. Or French. So basically, I won’t have anything that helped make Anna’s year come to a good end.

Perhaps I just like the book because it’s the best case scenario for what my life could be next year? Je ne sais pas.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

  1. I forgot I’d read this book last year! Like you, I also had avoided it for a good long while (chick lit isn’t my usual taste). We both seem to agree about Anna — I don’t understand her character for the most part, though there are somethings that are relatable. Homesickness… I can understand that, but her general attitude for a good chunk of the book bothered me.

    Anna & the French Kiss turned out to be junk food for my brain, however wary I am to admit that. Do you think you will read the companion book (Lola & the Boy Next Door)? Anna and Etienne make appearances, but I was more frustrated than anything. I think I’ll still try the find third companion novel, though… at some point.

    • Oh yay! There’s someone who agrees with my sentiments regarding this book! I can definitely understand homesickness, but it’s Paris, okay? PARIS! For at least the first week, all you should be able to do is try to rotate your head around in full circles in order to not miss a thing!

      I do plan to read ‘Lola & the Boy Next Door’ because I need breezy buffers between the heartbreaking books I plan to read this month. I don’t expect much of it, really, but I do want to see where it goes. Was it worse than ‘Anna and the French Kiss’?

      Have you read the book ‘The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight’? It’s chick lit, but I just read it today and I like it a lot!

      Thanks for the comment, by the way!

      • Exactly! I would have felt flustered with excitement and nerves if my parents had told me I’d attend school in Paris. I guess Anna and I aren’t very alike in that way. I felt that she over-dramatized the situation in the beginning and sounded whiny, although I think her character improved later on.

        Oh, gosh: Lola & the Boy Next Door! I could hardly tolerate it, but maybe you will have better luck. I didn’t relate to Lola at all and found her character generally dislikeable. It’s light and predictable like Anna & the French Kiss, but it wasn’t a fun read for me since I didn’t like the main character.

        I have! I saw you posted a review but haven’t had the chance to read it yet. I look forward to reading your thoughts (: Unfortunately I didn’t click with the writing style and didn’t enjoy it as much, but I appreciate how realistic the situations and relationships are in the book.

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