Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
I put off reading this book for so long because I was a little bit afraid that it couldn't possibly live up to the hype. But it does! It really does! This is a completely swoonworthy book. I knew the main character, Anna, a senior in high school is from Atlanta, and I had imagined that more of the book would take place in the South. That's not the case - her parents ship her off right away to a boarding school in Paris. I was prepared to immediately hate Anna for being a whiny brat about having such an awesome opportunity. That was the problem that I saw with Falling in Love with English Boys, by Melissa Jensen about a girl who has to spend a summer in London. Gee, wouldn't you love to have these girls "problems?" Happily, Anna did not seem too bratty to me. Her father is basically clueless - a less functional version of the real-life Nicholas Sparks, the famous author of badly-written, bestselling melodramatic romances.
When Anna gets to Paris, she's not on vacation - so she doesn't spend a lot of time jetting around, seeing the sights. Mostly, she's trying to get settled in her new dorm, meet friends, and figure out enough French to handle the basics, like ordering food in the cafeteria. She meets Etienne St. Clair, a total dreamboat, but of course, he has a girlfriend, and half the school is crushing on him anyway, so she knows she doesn't stand a chance. They do end up becoming good friends though, and spend the year getting to know each other, developing various in-jokes and so on. I was about ¾ of the way through the book, and Anna hasn't even kissed anyone yet. I was beginning to get worried - maybe the titular kiss would be on the last page? Fortunately, St. Clair soon realizes that his relationship with his former girlfriend just isn't working out, and Anna 'fesses up and admits her sort-of boyfriend back home isn't in the picture either. After they become a couple, Anna helps St. Clair confront his father who has been cruelly keeping him away from his cancer-ridden mother. It sounds more melodramatic than it plays out, and while I don't think high school romances often work out, I could totally picture Anna and St. Clair moving to Berkeley together, getting married and living happily ever after. I hate to say that this is a "When Harry Met Sally" story, since I think that reference will be lost on a lot of younger people, but it is a really good comparison. They're really sweet together, completely right for each other and have a really solid foundation because they were platonic friends for so long before the rest of their relationship developed.
I purchased this book.