Thirteen hours into the Challenge, and two books down. I haven’t exactly been reading at the clipped, focused, nigh-obsessive pace that I expected of myself. I’m usually fiercely competitive — even when it comes to things I’m not all that good at: mini-golf, skee-ball, air-hockey. It doesn’t matter what it is; all that matters is that I WILL OWN YOU. And I’ll let you know as much, too – usually while using colorful language. But since I woke up this morning, I’ve been pretty relaxed about this whole thing, which is surprising because reading is something in my wheelhouse. But I’ve been wandering my apartment and distractedly snacking. I went for a walk. I did some grocery-shopping. I even… okay, prepare yourselves for this one because I think it might be against 48HBC creed or something. I even showered. And it felt goooooooood.
To make up for my egregious betrayal to the cause, I re-committed myself to the task at hand once I was clean: reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I even dressed myself in red, white & blue thematic clothing (it’s American and French!) to prepare for the hours of reading before me.
Anna and the French Kiss is about a girl named Anna (duh) from Atlanta, Georgia, who’s been forced by her dad to abandon her life at home and spend her senior year of high school at SOAP – the School of America in Paris. He’s a bestselling author who writes formulaic, overly sentimental stories for overly sentimental ladies, which are then turned into overly sentimental movies for overly sentimental ladies (a fact which distresses Anna, who plans to become a film critic, greatly). Her dad’s become obsessed with appearances and he decides, quite suddenly, that he wants his only daughter to be cultured. Anna begins the year in Paris lonely, begrudging, and miserable. Then, she meets new friends, and progressively falls in love — both with the city and with a certain boy. Everything and everyone blossoms.
It’s not exactly an original storyline, but that doesn’t automatically make it bad. In fact, there’s only one thing to say about the book — and it’s probably been said before — but it just feels so right that I can’t help myself: I want to french kiss it.
People have been pleading with me to read Perkins’ book for years now, telling me that it’s fast, and fun, and light, and swoon-y. And all of that’s true! But what each recommender neglected to emphasize was how funny it is! Anna’s voice hooked me immediately. While her predicament isn’t one I could muster any great sympathy for — sent to Paris to study (boo-hoo!) — I never felt like she didn’t know that it wasn’t a sympathetic plight. She knew she was lucky, and privileged, and that she should feel objectively thankful. And she didn’t come from money; her dad’s money was new, so I didn’t feel a yawning divide between us as far as that was concerned. It was the way she moped, at first, that won me over. As she’s crying into her pillow on her first night in her new dorm room, she’s hyperaware of the fact that she can’t let any of her classmates hear her. She pouts, “I’m going to be sick. I’m going to vomit that weird eggplant tapenade I had for dinner, and everyone will hear, and no one will invite me to watch the mimes escape from their invisible boxes, or whatever it is people do here in their spare time” (9). Her character had a humorous inner monologue, and was very well-developed.
People also forgot to mention the author’s bad-ass hair, and that may not seem important but… okay, I guess it’s not important. But seriously, how cool are her luscious locks?
My only complaints about the novel are that somehow, despite wanting to be a film critic, Anna doesn’t know that “Paris is the film appreciation capital of the world” (89), which Perkins tries to gloss over by having another character note that it’s unbelievable, but it’s too unbelievable. If Anna’s got extensive knowledge of different genres of film, and directors, and a vocabulary to match, it’s completely ridiculous that in this modern age — with the INTERNET — (and she has a blog!) — that she wouldn’t know of Paris’ reputation; That, and the novel was a bit too long. What was done could’ve been done in fewer pages. And there’s the fact that we never get any perspective on Ellie – the hunky, dreamboat, love interest’s girlfriend. I needed to know more about her. I needed for Perkins to justify that what I wanted to happen was okay to want to happen. I needed to know if she was callous, or cruel, or okay with things. And I never got that confirmation.
But mostly, I really enjoyed it! Thumbs-up for hygiene and thumbs-up for Anna and the French Kiss! (Don’t worry, I googled it; they give thumbs-up in France, too. And I know that stereotypically, the French don’t have very good hygiene, but I’m not going give in to ignorance here and go for the easy joke. Though it would’ve been very easy, huh? Oh, well).
Oh, my god. Thank god I actually have Nutella and bananas in my kitchen. That almost became a wildly unmanageable craving. To any readers, I’m sorry if I’ve unknowingly hurt you.