There are two kinds of great books in this world. There are books you think about for a long time after they're over. Then, there are books that take you on a wild ride and you walk away at the end with a smile on your face and without looking back. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is the second kind.
The boy. Okay, so take all of the characteristics you would possibly want in a fictional love interest. Good hair? Check. Foreign? Check. British accent? Check. Likes to read? Check. Add them all together and what you get is Étienne St. Clair. But luckily, Étienne isn't just a mashup of different things girls like. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That's what's great about him. Even though I never caught myself swooning over his character while reading, I could appreciate that he was a real person who did frustratingly annoying things that pissed me off and could win my forgiveness in the next few pages. He is a great example of how an author can create a love interest that isn't a typical one-dimensional smoldering, mysterious boy. I hate smoldering, mysterious boys because in real life, they translate into being creepy stalkers. Étienne is nice. He is deserving of the main character's adoration. Nice boys don't get enough credit these days.
The girl. Anna, Anna, Anna. She is the perfect girl I would want to follow for an adventure like this. She is awesome. She has life goals! She hates things! She loves things! The best thing about Anna Oliphant is every girl can see a little bit of herself in Anna, but not because Anna's personality is a blank slate. She crackles to life on the page. It's so great to read. I admit, I found myself getting annoyed when she overanalyzes everything about Étienne and Toph. Really, I thought. Do we spend that much time thinking about what one particular boy says? Oh wait ... um, YES. I couldn't be mad at her after that because she was basically doing exactly what I do. All of her thoughts absolutely aligned with what I think on a daily basis in response to boys. She's a little insecure, and yeah, she does stuff that doesn't make sense. She is definitely in the wrong at some points. But like I would a friend, I forgave her. Because she is only being human and real, and that's what being seventeen is all about.
The story. Stephanie Perkins made a relatable high school story and then put it in Paris. That's all I have to say. The scenes ring perfectly true. The dialogue is excellent without trying too hard to be "hip." I could sympathize with all of the situations. Getting tired of being home while on break. Taking care of incoherent drunk boys (luckily, nobody has ever thrown up ON me). Stupid love triangles between friends. Being an asshole. Having someone be an asshole to me. I think Stephanie is secretly a teenage girl masquerading as a married 29-year-old. Or maybe she is just very young at heart.
The place. Like Anna, I fell in love with the streets of Paris, all those vintage book stores, historical cathedrals, and delicious crêperies. I mean, you couldn't find a better setting to place your story in. I loved it. The setting was practically its own character here and I was just as thrilled to explore it as I was the relationships and actual story. And when Anna went home for winter break and found herself wishing she were back in Paris, I was wishing right there with her.
So ultimately, this isn't a book that makes you think much, but why should it? ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS took me out of central Illinois and a crappy, busy schedule, and dropped me in the city of love for a delightful romp that I was sad to see end. That's all you can really ask for in a book.