“Anna, Anna," Josh interrupts. "If I had a euro for every stupid thing I've done, I could buy the Mona Lisa. You'll be fine.”
This is not a book I was supposed to be reading (exams are a real thing, I’ll have you know), but I bought it while down in Edinburgh with my mum last weekend and well, I suppose it says a lot that I could hardly put it down after starting it. Also, please take note; I figured I could stop using dull book cover images pulled from Google for actual books, so have a hipster picture I took in the local Starbucks today instead! If I get accepted to this one thing in January, I'll buy myself an actual camera for my birthday. Things to look forward to...?
Anna and the French Kiss is the story of Anna, who’s a neat freak and a film enthusiast and gets sent to a boarding school in Paris by her father for a year. She doesn’t know the language and has to make new friends, but she also meets the gorgeous, gorgeous American-French boy with a British accent (yes, I know), Étienne St. Clair. Sad thing is that they’re both kind of taken, of course. We wouldn’t have a book if people could just get together as soon as they recognise that the attraction is mutual, right?
I recognise that the book has a lot of issues. I mean, it’s a first world problem book, and that’s something you just have to live with if you’re going to read it. Anna realises that she’s being sent to the Most Amazing City In The World™ (I’ll get back to this later) and a boarding school only open to rich Americans, yet she has the nerve to cry about it. She begs her father to up her weekly allowance because she doesn’t have enough money for proper food, yet she goes to the cinema six times a week. It’s kind of terrible.
She’s also terribly stupid and has that (admittedly stereotypical) ‘American teenager with enough privilege to ignore the rest of the world‘ air about her. I’m still seething that she didn’t know how to write s’il vous plait (instead writing see voo play and having a friend correct it) or even oui (“The only French word I know is oui, which means “yes,” and only recently did I learn it’s spelled o- u- i and not w- e- e.”) or that in her 17 years, she hasn’t realised that her family motto, tout pourvoir, is French. (“Argh, I don’t know. I always assumed it was in Latin or some other dead language.”) I mean, could you not have Googled a few basic things before making myself, the reader, think that you’re incredibly stupid? She's everything that's wrong with America, in one person.
Étienne – St. Clair as he’s known most of the book, is nice. He’s passionate about history and awfully kind, good-looking, afraid of heights and being left alone. He might be a bit too perfect, but I’ll let that slide since his description is through the eyes of a girl that loves her. All in all, I liked him. I also liked the rest of the people in their little group of friends – Josh, Rashmi and Mer. They’re all quite likeable and aren’t totally cookie-cutter in their personalities, and they don’t even warm up to Anna the New Girl right away. I don’t have complaints about them. I especially want to mention artsy Josh, who skips classes and draws and is generally super nice. I liked him.
The ‘bad guys’ of the school are very, very stereotypical, however. There’s the popular, pretty girl who hates the main character just because she gets along with the cutest guy in school. There’s the jock who just likes to drink and party and has little to no personality other than to be an asshole. They were just that forgettable, with super generic names like Amanda and… David or something. You know the type, I’m sure.
As for the plot, it’s mostly nice. It flows well and has a good balance of carrot and stick – Anna’s problems and the times things actually work out. The main conflict however is messy and had me skipping lines because I saw where it was going and didn’t really care about the description when it did. There are some bright moments that made me smile but on the other hand there are also very boring ones. For an example, there’s a very generic ‘getting drunk’ scene that could belong to any single movie or book aimed towards teen audiences. Bleh.
The book is set in Paris and I think I have to admit that’s why I picked it up to begin with. I wanted to see if it was Paris with rude people and croissants and a constant hurry and too high a rent or Paris with dreams and croissants and art and all that magic they claim the city has, the American fantasy. Of course, I was disappointed. I kind of wish the book had been set in, say Amsterdam or Vienna (this just because these are my personal favourites, cities I’d love to set a book in because they’re just so curious), or that it was actually set in Paris, fully and truly embracing the beautiful city and not just a dull tourist stereotype.
Anna and the French Kiss is cute YA chick lit, that’s all there is to it. I knew this coming in and I mostly enjoyed the read. I kind of want to give this four out of five, but that would put it on the same line as books like Laughter in the Darkness and Water For Elephants, books I liked more unconditionally than this one. Also, I talked to my friend on Skype and she told me to burn this book, so I can’t really give it more than a three. But if you happen to stand first world problems and want some cute romance set in a fairy tale city… go for it.