I think pretty much everyone has read this by now- if not, it certainly feels like it.
I’ve been hearing quite a lot about this book around the internet. I kind of also got sucked in by the pretty cover, which is a bit silly but I’m not ashamed to say it definitely happens a lot with me!
I kind of wish I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did. There’s definitely major issues with this book, but it was fun to read and I kind of enjoy wanting a slap characters every so often. This book definitely made me glad I’ve well and truly left high school behind and didn’t go through the American education system, my goodness!
Anna and the French Kiss is about Anna, who gets sent by her father to a boarding school in Paris, because he believes it will make her more cultured and his friends jealous. Not a bad move, as Anna seems as uncultured as they come, but Anna is mad as a hatter about it. She makes a few friends and explores Paris (after about a month of moping and being too scared to leave campus, lest some scary French people *gasp* LOOK at her…. but I digress). One of these friends is the ridiculously named Etienne St. Clair, a British/American/French guy who is immediately the obvious love interest.
Anna, as a character, was interesting but kind of a Mary Sue. Being inside her head was a bit of a chore, but I didn’t dislike her completely. I definitely disagreed with her actions, but I think she’s a pretty good characterisation of a teenage girl. I found her extremely frustrating, as she really had some skewed priorities, was pretty immature for her age and had some weird opinions, but she wasn’t dreadful. I felt sorry for her in some parts, especially when she went home for Christmas. I also found her to be quite relatable and realistic, which definitely helped me to remain empathetic towards her. Thankfully, by the end she does grow as a character and gains some self awareness, which rates her much higher than some other YA main characters I can think of!
The book definitely shows me that Americans are becoming more self aware of their shortcomings. I wonder how some of them swallow the way this book treats this, particularly the shock that Anna gets when she returns home for Christmas over exactly how terrible aspects of the American culture can be. It really is quite damning to the American education system as well, since Anna has literally no idea about anything remotely foreign. She literally writes a simple French sentence out phonetically at one point, and thought that “oui” was spelt “wee”. It makes me cringe so badly whenever I see anyone write it that way!
I found Anna’s slow movement from believing in American exceptionalism to understanding that another culture has better qualities to be really interesting, particularly when she gets a huge culture shock on going home. I laughed at the description of her drinking American coffee for the first time!
I can’t believe that for a “film buff”, Anna has no idea that the FRENCH have CINEMAS. And she goes to Paris, the home of European cinematic culture and watches not one single French movie. Not one. She only sees either old Hollywood movies or other American movies. It seems absolutely bizarre to me, particularly as she learns French. Didn’t she do any research about Paris or French culture before she went?
The morality of the romance in this book has been reviewed many times over, but I’ll quickly touch on it. St. Clair, while quite an interesting and three dimensional character, is definitely all kinds of wrong. I don’t understand how people are missing that the boy cheated. Flat out cheated. Yet Ellie, his girlfriend, is painted as the nasty bitch here. Anna knew exactly what she was doing and so did St. Clair, so I struggle to believe that it’s fair to treat Ellie as the bad one in the situation. The girl did nothing wrong, other than trust her boyfriend not to cheat on her. Anna knew from the get go that he was taken, so sorry, she did the wrong thing.
I did enjoy the various shots the author took at Nicholas Sparks, though it seems a little hypocritical of her. He is an absolute prat, so I’ll let her have them anyway.
There’s a fair bit of slut shaming in this book… but for once, it didn’t bother me as much as it did some other reviewers, only because it fit my memory of how it is to be a teenager. Maybe I’m just a horrible, horrible person, but when I was 16, I would have had similar thoughts. It’s not right, but I think Anna is too immature to understand that she’s wrong and hypocritical in many cases throughout the book, not just with slut shaming.
I liked the drama in this book, because it’s always fun to watch other people’s drama, right? Plus, for teenage drama, it was surprisingly amusing. I also liked the descriptions of Paris, even though I know they’re not exactly stellar. I also tend to enjoy boarding school books, which I know is a bit odd, but whatever.
I give this book 2.5 stars. It’s not bad, it’s not great, it just is. I enjoyed it for what it is, which is a light and fluffy young adult novel. I probably would have enjoyed it more 5 years ago, even with my strong aversion to cheating. There’s definitely problems, but it wasn’t rage inducing for me and I quite enjoyed the ride!