I finished the series!
After reading Anna and the French Kiss, I couldn’t resist reading the companion novels which follow it. While these do have a chronological order, reading the first isn’t completely essential to understanding the second and so on – although I think they’re absolutely worth reading in the ‘right’ order, simply to enjoy the returns to old protagonists later on. If you read the first one though, as the friend who recommended them promised me, you will likely want to devour the following ones immediately. I certainly couldn’t resist it… though I sort of wish I had, because now there’s no more of them left to read. Maybe I should re-borrow the first one from the library again…
These books are incredibly charming. They are romantic, cutesy and adorable. They have a strength to their character building which is rare to find in novels of this sort. While they use the usual tropes to give an instant image of the character in their immediate context – Anna’s reluctance to go to Paris, Lola’s obsession with costume, Isla’s long-term crush on Josh – these aren’t relied upon later to back up character details, but are actually reinforced and given more intricate explanation. They’re challenged, compromised and considered.
Everyone learns something about themselves in the course of a Stephanie Perkins book – the central character learns a lesson about herself and her relationship with the rest of the world that changes what’s come before. It’s a message I could probably have benefitted from as a teenager – not to be scared of looking at my own actions and realising I’d gotten something wrong. That actually, the scarier thing would be never realising and letting things stay that way.
I admit that part of my love for this series may come from having read them at just the right time, but I’m confident that it isn’t all there is to them. I will love them just as much next time I read them – which in itself is an accolade, because I don’t re-read everything!
We all need books that comfort us and cheer us up when we’re not feeling great. Books that can transport us totally into just being another person, with completely alien worries and surroundings. These books are really excellent at doing that. They are romance stories – it would be silly to suggest otherwise – but Stephanie Perkins makes very certain that her girls have something other going on in their lives than the boys they’re in love with. For me, I think that is what I loved beyond similar, more forgettable books I read when I was younger.
These books made me feel like a teenager again. I adore being a married, twenty-two year old woman living independently. I don’t wish I was back in school – except for the more frequent opportunities it gave me to see my friends! But feeling like a teenager again for a few hours while wrapped up in these stories just made me smile – and that is worth quite a lot.