Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss was fervently recommended to me by a friend who told me that she loved it so much that when she finished it she sat right back down and re-read it. While I didn’t go that far, she was absolutely right. This book took me about 5 hours to read, most of it in one sitting. I loved it, despite the unfortunate title and cover.
Honestly, I’d seen the book around, but I discounted it as a Cathy Hopkins-like book: uber chick-lit that’s just offensive on many levels. False.
Anna is more than a little dismayed when her Nicholas Sparks-like father sends her to Paris boarding school in order to make his family seem a bit more cultured. She’s missing her senior year at home, the boy she’s almost dating, and immersing herself in a new culture–not only the French culture, but the new culture of a boarding school with all the ultra rich kids. She meets a guy, but he’s taken, and she remains conflicted about the potential relationship she’s left back in the States.
This book is about translation on many levels: cultural, relational, linguistic. This is much more than chick-lit. It’s a girl coming to terms with her place in the world, despite uncomfortable and unfortunate circumstances. She must figure out who she is apart from her comfort zone, living away from everyone she knows and a language everyone speaks. She speaks no French, but we find that there is more than just a language barrier that all people, teenagers most often, must learn to overcome. Furthermore, Anna is on the brink of adulthood, about to go off to college. This actually turns out to be an informative, developmental experience for her.
Anna wants to be a film critic, and she’s painfully shy. Her idea of an exciting night is watching an old movie and reviewing it on her blog. She learns how to relate with the world, balancing crazy with reserved, getting along with her peers, not simply letting life and people pass her by. The novel is peppered with film trivia (both popular and obscure), good food (come on, they’re in Paris!), and interesting, quirky relationships.
The only problems: I understand the title, though it’s a turn off for many people–very nearly including me. In addition, the cover, though aesthetically well done, does not reflect the way that Anna (who has a bleached stripe in her hair) might look.
It was an effortless, enjoyable read that explores the many levels of communication and the effect that miscommunication has on relationships.