Dear Nikki: On French Kissing
The book, Anna and the French Kiss***, if you wondered, is about a girl named Anna (obviously) who gets sent to Paris for her senior year of high school by her douchbag-ish father. Oddly, she is not so very excited about this. (I know, right?) But things perk up when she meets the Frenchman-cum-Englishman-cum-American Etienne St. Claire. O.M.G.
Read my more indepth, not-so-very spoilery (but maybe a little) notes at the bottom, after the jump.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
The book started weak, but picked up pacing and lyricism quickly. I loved the voice and the setting, though I think the author could have emphasized the latter more, if just because I’m such a huge fan of Paris. Then, after Anna had her Realization about Etienne, the pacing slowed for me. The convoluted mess of teenage emotions became heavy and, as stated, were occasionally unbelievable. It picked up again in detention, leading to that fabulous confrontation between Etienne and his father and finishing with a great kiss. (The author writes kissing well, PS.) I thought the last chapter was a little too much whip cream on my coffee, though.
3 ½ Eiffel Towers out of 5**. (Almost all on voice, with the extra ½ for being in Paris.) I’ll probably buy from this author again.
Hope you’re having a good time without me in gay Paris! I miss you.
*Nikki is my fabulous friend who lives in Paris. You can view her travel blog here. And her 365 project here. I write book-review-letters to her and my mom because I can. We’re all three Big Book Nerds.
**A breakdown of my grades: 1 = I don’t like it. I shouldn’t have finished it. 2 = It was an acceptable use of my time. 3 = I liked it! I’ve read better books, but definitely enjoyed this one. 4 = Impressed. 5 = This is one of those books that you hug to your chest when it’s over, sigh happily (or sadly), then immediately want to read again.
***It hurts me that the kindle edition of this book is more expensive than the hardcover.
The first thing that struck me about this book was the initial info-dump. I found this odd, unnecessary, and lazy as all of the information was revealed later on and more naturally. BUT! I slogged through it for a couple reasons. First: the voice. Anna kinda sounded like me. I don’t think I’ve ever read someone who used the same slang I do. And our somewhat-funny-but-mostly-ridiculous comments. Second: things picked up fast.
The info-dump was especially noticeable because the book is written in first person present tense. An understandable move because the Awesomely Voiced Anna speaks in a fairly direct way to the reader, and that would read super strangely in past tense. Nonetheless, the POV and tense made similar info-dumps later in the book equally noticeable and awkward. Though they were few and far between, they slowed pacing.
In terms of plot, it was fine. I mean, it’s a lurve story. (Bet you couldn’t have guessed that one.) It’s carried by the quirky narration of a sort-of OCD seventeen-year-old. But, there were TWO issues. FIRST, Holy Crap Anyone Would Realize that Anna does to Mer what her former-BFF Bridgette did to Anna and it was COMPLETELY unbelievable that Anna doesn’t recognize it right away. I mean, for god’s sake, at one point Anna herself notes, “How could I not have seen that they’re the exact same thing?” (paraphrasing). At that point, I had an angry, muttered hissy fit. Several plane patrons waiting for the bathroom looked at me oddly.
SECOND, why, WHY, when she was so obsessed with Etienne, would she not check the book of poetry he buys her? RIDICULOUS and highly unbelievable. Especially when she likes school that much? Bah!
As for characters, I thought that Anna and Etienne were wonderfully nuanced and believable. I have mentioned that I love Anna’s voice. They had their flaws, and that was good. Though annoying at the time, it was probably a good thing that Anna was SO GODDAMN DUMB when she was drunk. It kept her from being me. (You know how perfect I am, Nikki =P). BUT her self-absorption got to be a little oppressive, especially when the author wanted to show her interest in others. Also, though I totally approved of Anna’s reaction to Amanda’s disgusting taunts about Mer, it felt abrupt and staged considering there hadn’t been any like discussion of the often negative impact of slang in the rights of GLBT previously, and Anna’s apparently strong (and correct) feelings on the subject.
That being said, I thought the secondary characters were a little…not so nuanced. They were introduced with much fanfare and fantastic asides. (I loved the way the author wrote Amanda. A teenager who emphasizes a different word in each sentence. Ahahaha, genius.) But then—perhaps deliberately—they are relegated to the side and forgotten as Anna and Etienne’s relationship blossoms. The lack of pages given to Anna’s relationship with her other friends made the reconciliation at the end of the book seem chintzy and too pat. A great start and then haphazard end.
I was quite entranced with the way the author via Anna described Paris, though she stuck to the famous tourist spots for the most part. I particularly liked this passage about the buildings in the fifth arrondissement. Her school has a view of the Parthenon. “The buildings in my arrondissement blend one into another, curving around corners with the sumptuousness of wedding cakes.”