Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
I will admit it was the title that drew me in. And probably the cover too. Have you ever seen such a pretty cover? Ooh, the colours. And who isn't swept away by the Eiffel Tower? The cover, to me, spells out love!
It was a pretty cover and a rather pretty book, light and frothy. It was a high school romance - kind of perfect for a hot summer day when you're not really wanting to do more than dip your foot into a pool and spend half of the time staring at the sky instead of reading.
Paris herself was clearly the shining star of this novel. I get the sense that the author fell in love with Paris and wanted to share that with the world, and I appreciate that, because I love Paris too. With all my heart I feel it's one of the most romantic places in the world and I will feel a connection to anyone else who adores Paris as well. Which is everyone, right?
However, light and cheery as it was, I can say that this book isn't great, and there are some huge problems. As in, the main characters are all assholes. The largest one being our frightful heroine herself, Anna. Anna is ... difficult to like. She is young and extremely immature. I'm sure I was equally immature when I was 17, but it's not like I want to revisit that part of being 17. By "that part" I mean the whining. And the melodramatics. And the whining. Pass please.
Truly, I almost didn't get into this book at all, because it begins with Anna bitching about being forced to move to Paris for a year. And while boarding school would be intimidating and leaving one's family would be very sad, that's not what she focuses on. Instead, she's upset because she has to leave behind her crush at the movie theatre where she works, and because Paris is icky. Seriously, her ideas of France and the french are outdated and ... not funny? Maybe if this were the 80s or something, but we live in a global economy now. This book was written in 2015. Why would a tech-savvy teen think that all French people do is go and watch mimes? How does she not know that it's spelled "oui"? Anna is early on set up as a complete moron, and it is not charming.
She spends a great deal of time while in Paris worried about being mistaken for a tacky American tourist which ... first of all is super rude to Americans, who I bet are almost all more savvy than Anna, and also ... she is the one being tacky, and she comes off as the most ignorant child of all. Her stereotypes of french culture were not cute, although we are supposed to think they are. Especially because it's not really that different from american culture. I moved from North America to the french part of Switzerland, and let me tell you that the culture shock is soft as a cloud. I mean, the food is actually way better here, the author certainly got that part right. But other than that, it's not like Paris is actually very foreign to Anna. I shudder to think what Anna's reaction would be to traveling in a part of the world outside of Western European culture, because I'm going to guess that it is not pretty (read: racist af).
I did like that Anna had interests outside of chasing boys and making fun of anything remotely unfamiliar - she loves cinema and wants to be a film critic. Although she didn't realize that there would be cinemas in Paris. Seriously, do some fucking research, girl. Her hobby does give her some level of independence, though.
But when it comes to boys, she does not comport herself well. First, when her American crush starts to date her best friend, she melts down like a toddler and throws away a lifelong friendship. Like an asshole.
And then she dates another guy just to make her new crush jealous. Like an asshole. And even though she doesn't like him very much, and dating people for that reason is gross, she only ends things with him when she realizes he probably pees in his shower. What?
Then there's her relationship with St. Clair, which is problematic. St. Clair is, like, so perfect, except that he is not. He is a cheater. He has a serious girlfriend. He cheats on her for the entire year, even if they aren't actually kissing at that point, yes, it is cheating. Because he wants both the old and the new with no consequences. I kind of felt like his mother's illness was put in to make him sympathetic, because otherwise he comes off as an asshole. A charming lost-boy asshole.
So, after writing about these characters for awhile, I've talked myself out of this book. There were some unlikeable characters and a very outdated view of Americans as tacky and not worldly, although in retrospect the tackiest people in the book were in fact American. Dislike. There are better books that love Paris better than this.
I really do like the cover though. Gorgeous!