Anna has everything figured out – she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere… Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.
But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including Etienne, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he’s taken – and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-missed end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?
Description taken from Goodreads.
Anna and the French Kiss has long been one of my favorite books in the genre, as I’m sure it is for many a YA book blogger out there. Even upon rereading it for the first time in years, I fell in love with the romance and the way the story develops. I enjoyed getting to know the cast of characters and seeing the way that Anna grew during her time in France.
However, I also became much more aware of the book’s flaws. Let’s start at page one.
When I cracked Anna open for a reread, I got this sinking feeling reading the opening sentences. I wanted to think that Anna’s cluelessness was funny, and it was, just a little bit, but it was also very not funny. If she were the slightest bit more snobby and aggressive, then she could’ve been put in the Americans Behaving Badly category, and if she were on a continent that isn’t Europe, then there would’ve been a crushing amount of criticism about the story, which is essentially what happened to Katie M. Stout’s Hello, I Love You. Diving into this story, I felt a certain unease that Anna‘s popularity hinges on a very precarious pedestal that works because Perkins writes engaging romance, the blogosphere itself is in love with Étienne St. Clair, and it’s set in Europe.
Atlanta is not the middle of nowhere, Paris is not a remote village in Bangladesh, and Anna’s helpless act really wasn’t cutting it for me.
However, there has to be a certain degree of understanding for the circumstances. Even though I was disappointed by how I now saw Anna, I could understand where she was coming from. Given that that’s how Anna was written, I think Perkins did a great job with what she had. Anna shows tremendous character growth over the course of the story, and I loved seeing her new friends support her through her struggles. Anna was still endearing, and the narrative was never so bad that I had to stop reading or wanted to skip ahead.
Étienne was no longer as polished as I remember him being as well. He’s a charming character, no doubt, but he didn’t take my heart the way that Griff from Find Me did or the way that Percy from the Rick Riordan books did. Part of that was his rudeness toward other characters. I mean–for the most part, he was civil, but at no point did I think that he was a good person. He cheats on his girlfriend with Anna, he can be moody, and he allows his like (love? lust) of Anna to get in the way of his friendships.
Again, there has to be some understanding of the circumstances, but personally, I wasn’t in love with him. On a literary level, Perkins fleshed out his character well, and she put realistic flaws into Étienne and Anna’s relationship that were resolved nicely.
The supporting characters were good supporting characters, but I wanted more from them too. Perkins almost got to the point where Rashmi and Josh felt like their own people with their own lives, but she didn’t quite get there. Their romance had a promising start, but the ending felt pretty half-baked. As for Meredith, Dave, and Amanda, there was next to nothing there except names, faces, and petty drama.
Overall? I would still recommend Anna, despite its flaws. There’s a lot of not-the-greatest contemporary romance out there, and even though it’s not the picture-perfect YA contemp that I once thought it was, it’s still a novel that I’ll enjoy and return to. Perkins does write well, and I think my issues with the story had more to do with disappointment rather than disliking the book altogether. 3.5 stars.