Review: ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ by Stephanie Perkins

anna and the french kissThis book was recommended to me (repeatedly!) by a friend who promised it would make me happy – and boy, was she absolutely right. I saved it up as a bit of literary prozac for a week when I was feeling a bit down in the dumps, which it turns out was a perfect strategy.

This is romantic, funny young adult fiction. Depending on your threshold, it could perhaps be called cheesy, but never condescending. If there’s one thing I can’t stand in YA fiction, it’s a tone from the author that suggests they’re figuratively patting their readers on the head; a narrator who thinks of them self as very far above their peers because they act more like the adult author thinks teenagers and young adults ought to act. In particular, I am bothered by a plot arc that culminates in some sort of revelation about how the central character handles life all wrong, and will do better from now on. The transparent morality tale isn’t what I look for in young adult fiction. I look for authors who treat teenagers like people, with complex personalities and no invalidation of their emotional lives. Dystopian and action books are usually pretty good at this, but romantic fiction – particularly romantic fiction targeted at young women – often falls short of the mark. This, on the other hand, falls far above it.

Personally I love how while there are arguments between friends in this book, with included shouting matches and serious mistakes, it is never characterised as ‘drama’, but actually described as something perfectly normal. Friends fight, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad friendships – disagreeing, messing up and having to apologise are all expected events in the course of any sort of relationship.

I also really enjoyed that Anna experiences a bit of confusion about how she feels for Etienne, for Toph, for Dave – she doesn’t see one boy at the beginning of the book and decide that he’s the one she can’t live without. We can pretty easily guess what couple we’re headed toward at the end of the book, but that conclusion isn’t constantly pointed to as the only circumstance Anna can live with. There aren’t unrealistic expectations of romance set here, but there are good ones – for relationships that are honest and based on strong friendship rather than only attraction, and a central desire to do what’s best for the other person and for yourself. I was so happy with Anna’s wish!

Sort of linked to that is how much I love that none of the characters in this book are perfect – while that’s Anna’s first impression of Etienne, it doesn’t last and we understand plenty of her own flaws as well.

I’d definitely recommend this book, if you’re a fan of YA romance and looking for something to just make you smile. Personally, I’m heading out to the library shortly to borrow Lola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After…!


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