Saturday, May 12, 2012

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

When I was younger my life's goal was to go to/live in London, England.

This goal was so prominent in my mind that during my Home-Ec class when other girls were making those big wedding plans (a project I'm soooooo glad has been deemed sexist and inappropriate) I planned my trip to London--no, really, I told my teacher I wasn't planning on getting married and that if I did I would do so in Vegas. She told me I should plan my honeymoon instead and my trip (not honeymoon) was a go.

My friends used to help me dream about my life in England.

I'd meet a boy named Nigel "Something"(I don't remember his last name)worth the Third and he'd be handsome and rich and have lovely gardens we'd stroll around. I'd meet the Queen (or is it The Queen?) and she'd be so taken with how polite I was that I'd be offered a job and a place in the palace. I'd own a dog. I'd go to pubs. I'd become an archaeologist and figure out what happened to those boys in the Tower. I'd eat lots of fish and chips. I wish I would have kept all the papers on which we doodled my life plan.

And, then it happened. Everything worked out so I could go to London, England...not just a week or a month, but a whole semester...sigh.

I became a part of the Missouri London Program.

I became an exchange student.

It was awesome.

I'd forgotten how much so until I read Anna and the French Kiss, a wonderfully written, light, but in no way breezy, young adult novel by Stephanie Perkins.

This book would just be another typical teen fish out of water tale if it wasn't for the amazing dialogue. I fell in love with Anna the first moment she was introduced. Actually, Perkins has quite a lovely grasp on dialogue and characters and I fell in love with and related to them all. Each character exhibited traits of people I know and cherish. There's the boy who everyone knows is in the wrong relationship, but he doesn't have the backbone to end it. There's the girl who has had a major crush on said boy, but understands that she is not the one. There's the jealous, over-the-top girlfriend. The boy, who is this case happens to be named Etienne (sigh), has his own wonderful set of quirky guy friends. And, there's all the romance of being in a foreign country sans adults. Something about the way these seniors acting seemed totally believable. This may be the first time I've read a book where a girl or two cries alone or accidentally in front of someone and I didn't want to bash my head, or hers, into a brick wall. I even had some of the same culture shock moments ("What the world I left went on without me while I was having a life overseas?"). This book was soooo good that I couldn't put it down and had to finish it, while my friends waited, sitting on a bed in a lovely Los Angeles hotel an amazing view of the Hollywood sign behind me.

So study abroad. If you're lucky you'll meet people half as cool as these people and you'll have wonderful adventures with or without all the romance. If you can't study abroad right away at least read this book and remember your first love, your first time away from home and live overseas vicariously through them.

Reading this book made me get out the 'ole scrapbooks. Memory lane never felt so good.

5 Stars
The only thing that would have made this book better is if it would have been set in London, no really, I mean that...maybe Stephanie Perkins will do that someday.

Teacher Advisories 
Sex 2/5
There's some kissing...OK, there's lots of kissing there for a minute, whew! A boy alludes to sleeping with a girl, although we never read about it. It is also alluded to the fact the Etienne and his girlfriend sleep together. Anna and Etienne spend a week spooning on a dorm room bed nightly.
Language 4/5
I don't remember there being any cussing in English or in French...gonna go look that up right now...ah, the power of the eReader...OK, so I lied BIG TIME...this book says the F-word like 5, literally, 5 times! Shit also gets thrown around a bit carelessly. I feel bad I have to give this book a 4 on this, but 5 times is a bit much for a teen romance novel!
Substance Abuses 2/5
Um, these are 18 year-old American students in a foreign country that allows you to drink at 18...totally believable situations and frankly, these kids don't act like typical American teens drunk, they act like college students.
Violence 1/5
Drinking and jealous never end up well.

Touchy Subjects
Social Class
Anna goes to school in France because her father has made it big as an author and he wants to impress people. Yeah, you read that right, Anna intially goes to go in France because her father thinks it will look good on his resume.
I love, love, love, love first love books. Be prepared for broken hearts, misunderstandings, lead-ons and the other things that come with it.

The Mores and Folkways of a Foreign Country
Students may want to talk about foreign customs, traditions, home life et cetera.

Couples who are separated
Etienne's parents are separated, but his father still controls much of their lives. For instance, he isn't allowed to see his mother, who has cancer and may be dying, until a scheduled break in the school year.

When it's OK to stand up to your parents
Etienne and his father have a huge fight in which Etienne says some pretty harsh things that further alienate his relationship with his father. When, if ever, is it OK to talk to your parents in this manner? I think that Perkins would have you believe that sometimes this kind of frankness must happen, especially when the parent is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive.

Parents living their lives vicariously through their children
Definitely some lessons to be learned here, as all these kids seem to be privileged in some manner... 

How this book is used in the classroom
1] Independent Read option

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