Tuesday, 4 November 2014

'Anna and the French Kiss' (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie Perkins

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

I was worried about reading 'Anna and the French Kiss', because it's not the kind of book I would normally read, but I've been trying to get into different things recently. And holy cow was I impressed!
If you haven't heard of the 'Anna and the French Kiss' trilogy of companion novels (completed with 'Lola and the Boy Next Door' and 'Isla and the Happily Ever After') I don't know where you've been hiding, because everyone absolutely loves these novels. That was another reason I was worried about reading them; if all you hear is good reviews and the book is largely underwhelming it's a massive disappointment. 
'Anna...' tells the story of Anna Oliphant, an Atlantan teenager who is relocated to France for her senior year due to her fathers wishes. She's worried about making friends, but automatically snaps into place in the little clique of art people, and so begins a carefree and happy year. 
But of course, this is a teenage drama novel, so nothing is going to be carefree and happy. She makes a best friend in the form of Étienne St. Clair, spends the first half of the novel adamant that she's not in love with him because she has a crush on her ex-co worker Toph, who's all the way back in Atlanta, then realises Toph was a massive douchebag and she's been in love with Étienne the entire time.
I will admit, I think one of the only reasons I appreciate this novel as much as I do is because Anna wants to be a film critic, so we have an aspiration in common. That helped me bond with her, as the declaration "I just like... expressing my opinion. That possibility of turning someone on to something really great" is pretty much why I'm writing what I'm writing right now. Because other than that, Anna is pretty annoying. I know that a lot of people absolutely love her, but it's pretty obvious she's in love with Étienne and the lady doth protest too much making it absolutely clear cut. "Any girl face with daily attention from a gorgeous boy with a cute accent and perfect hair would be hard-pressed not to develop a big, sticking, painful, all-the-time, all-consuming crush. Not that that's what's happening to me." Oh yeah, girl? Who you trying to convince, us or yourself? 
Then again, I can't exactly detract from the novel due to the blatant obviousness of the crush, because it's the entire point of the novel - the climax of them getting together, finally realising they're meant to be. 
I did enjoy the novel, because it was something different to what I'd normally read, and it wasn't slap you in the face insta-love, it took some time for them both to realise and then announce their feelings, but it still leaves me with a sort of bitter taste in my mouth. Étienne admitting that on the first day of class he'd conspired to make them physics lab partners demonstrates either a knowledge that Anna and him were soul mates that even he couldn't explain, or just shows that the boy was willing to shove the existence of his girlfriend to the back of his mind as soon as a pretty stranger walked into the room. The scene where Anna gets drunk and starts screaming at him in the street, just for them to have what could be described as a civilised conversation the next day left me feeling confused - if I screamed at someone in the middle of the street when I was drunk and made an absolute scene in front of all of our friends I'd expect to be ignored for a good couple of weeks. This happens a few times - the switching between being at each others throats and being best friends - so it did frustrate me at times how bipolar their relationship seemed to be, but the scene after Anna lost her key when Anna tells us "even with all of the awkwardness and hostility, he still considers me his best friend" demonstrates exactly how strong their bond has become, so that makes it almost forgivable. I also hate Anna's attitude towards Étienne after they're discovered kissing and he runs after Meredith to console her, because she automatically becomes very abrasive towards him, not giving him any chance to explain. Similarly, she acts in the same way towards Toph, the crush who starts dating her best friend back home, not even talking to him after she finds out he's dating her best friend. I know that's mostly because of how hurt she is, but if you're friends with someone you put on a brave face and tell them  you're happy that they're happy - you don't ignore them both and make them feel like shit, that's just kind of childish. And then she hypocritically turns around and does exactly the same thing to Meredith, who has been in love with Étienne for years, which just made me want to slap her in the face. You can't get all high and mighty 'how dare my best friend fall in love with someone' and then do the exact same thing. I know that she acknowledges how terrible she's being later on in the novel, but it just seemed to take her too long to realise that she'd been an absolute cow. 
Despite these irritations, overall it was still a pretty fabulous read. The exploring of Paris has left me with a yearning to go there the likes I've never had before, the scenes between Anna and Étienne just being friends were fun and well written, and the rest of their friendship group was amazing. The inclusion of Isla's character as a background character was fun, as now that the last book has been released it's obvious that she's going to get reprised, and I think I'm going to enjoy her novel a hell of a lot. Some things were still left up in the air, such as whether Anna and Bridgette's friendship can ever be fully repaired following her relationship with Toph, so I hope we get to see Anna again in one of the later books and find out whether that managed to happen. I really enjoy Stephanie Perkins writing (despite her overusage of italicisation) and I'm hopefully going to be getting 'Lola...' and 'Isla...' for Christmas, so I'll be reading those as soon as I get them. This is one of the first books in a long time that has been nearly 400 pages and I've read in less than two days, so these are quick reads and are very fun and enjoyable.

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