I was watching a cooking show once where a chef won a contest by making a simple dish. The other chefs complained that she had made something too rustic, too simple, but the judges said that a good dish done flawlessly will win over a complex dish poorly executed. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is like that dish. It’s a simple YA romance, executed flawlessly.
Anna starts out by complaining that she’s being sent to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But before you can hate her for being so entitled that she thinks a year in Paris is a punishment, she defends herself by saying that she has nothing against going there, it’s not being given a choice that she objects to. Because Paris can be a very lovely city, and we explore it through Anna’s eyes.
The number one thing I liked about Anna is that she has a definite personality and she knows what she wants. She loves movies, even old movies (derided by another character as being full of funny hats and misudnerstandings) and she wants to be a film critic. She’s into a boy at home (Toph) but she’s also into the cute Etienne St. Clair, excepting that he already has a girlfriend.
The second thing I liked about this is that the secondary characters (Anna’s friends at home, her friends in Paris) all have their own lives and motivations. While Anna is having her romance, her friends are going through their own issues. In fact, the decisions her friends make (based on their own motives) impact Anna’s life.
The third thing that I liked about this novel is that Etienne St. Clair, aside from being totally cute, was just like a real person. Unlike some of the other YA I’ve read, other girls in the novel have noticed that Etienne St. Clair is super-cute, and Anna’s not the only one who likes him. I didn’t have a good grasp of how odd this was until I read this book and went “of course! Attractive people have many suitors!” It made me think about how many other books have a super-flawlessly-hot guy that all the girls aside from the heroine are only indifferent to. Etienne acts like a normal guy (ie. he has baggage) but he’s like a normal guy who is crazy about the heroine. There’s none of this hot and cold psychopath stuff that the vampires and fallen angels are into. He’s flirtatious, and attentive, and basically a nice guy.
I like that Anna and Etienne are able to help each other with their problems, and that they work things out by talking (after a few rough patches–it does have a plot, after all). I also liked that Anna grows as a person over the course of the book and learns valuable lessons, namely, that not everything is about her, and that she shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on minimal information, and that people can’t help falling for cute boys.
Don’t expect chase scenes, or explosions, or death, or supernatural events. Don’t expect a mystery or profound revalations on what it’s like to be a middle aged English professor whose penis doesn’t work. Just read this book if you would like to see a young adult romance done perfectly.