Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Recommendation: Anna and the French Kiss

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
Published December 2nd, 2010 by Dutton Books
372 Pages

I was at B&N the other day, doing some last minute Christmas shopping. My Grandma had sent me some money, so naturally I decided to spend it on books. I had four in my hand, but I had to narrow it down to one. Two were sequels to books I'd already read, one was a new baby name book, and then this one. I'd heard nothing but great things about ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (I believe Mandy Hubbard and CA Marshall were the ones who first suggested it to me), so I decided to go with their advice.

I'm glad I did. Beyond glad, actually.

Funny how one of the best books of 2010 came out in December. Funny that I should read it now, as the year's about to end. Seems fitting to read such a fantastic book right now. School's out, I'm on vacation in my favorite city, and everything is right with the world. When I turned the last page, I felt as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is a feel good book. I dare you to find me someone who didn't feel happier after reading it. I'm confident you won't find a soul.

Anna and St. Clair really make the story. Anna's voice is fantastic, sarcastic, funny, charming, and exactly how your best friend sounds. St. Clair is that guy you fantasize about, that you wish weren't fictional. He has flaws, makes mistakes, but you can't help but fall in love with him along with Anna. I've read a lot of YA in my time, and I think this is one of the most convincing love stories I've ever come across. I believed every bit of it. Nothing seemed forced or overly dramatic or unrealistic. Sure, there was some drama - its protagonists are teenagers - but it was never too much or over-the-top. It walked that fine line very well, and I actually found myself wanting to give the characters advice on numerous occasions. I think it's rare when you care that much about a fictional character, and I applaud Stephanie Perkins for that. The girl has a gift.

Honestly, I wasn't prepared for how much I would laugh while reading this book. Like I said, Anna's voice is amazing -- she feels like someone I've known all my life. Her comments about people and situations are ones I've made myself, or would expect someone to say, given the opportunity. Her dialogue with St. Clair and her friends is easy and reminiscent of conversations I had as a teenager. Everything about this book is just easy. It just works.

I missed my chance to go to Paris while I was living in Ireland, and I sincerely regret that now. Though my knowledge of Paris is similar to Anna's at the very beginning of the book (literally, the first page), I grew to know it along with her. As a reader, you're gradually taught some of the idiosyncrasies of Paris and its people, how some things are pronounced, and even run across a few important landmarks. It's like going to Paris, but not. Now that I've got this mental picture stuck in my head, I'm even more determined to see the real thing.

Anna's journey was oddly reminiscent of my own. I went to Ireland, not knowing what to expect. I had to learn to navigate a new city, find new friends, adjust to a new culture, and though the people spoke English, they might as well have been speaking Portuguese it was so hard to understand some of them. But I grew comfortable in my surroundings, and I silently cheered Anna on as she made that same transition. I clapped when she finally braved the city on her own, and I felt her pain when she realized things at home weren't as great as she remembered. Living abroad changes you. It's unavoidable. I liked that Stephanie Perkins included that detail in her story because it made Anna's situation even more realistic. The fact that I was in love with my best friend for six years only added to my sympathy for her. This book will ring true for anyone who's ever loved their best friend; for those who haven't, you'll find out what it feels like. The emotional roller coaster is spot-on.

Everything about this story is totally charming, from the title to the very last sentence. I'm happy to report there are two companion novels that will follow, but in the meantime, if you buy one book, buy this one. I promise you won't regret it.