Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Reviews - Anna & the French Kiss; Sarah's Key

Je ne sais quoi, parlez vous francais, il y a nes pas, voulez vous, zut, and je suis? That's all I know about French--not much more than the main character in Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. (And I'm sure all misspelled!)

But I grew up in south Louisiana, and JRM accuses me all the time of being a French-lover. So it's possible my love of this book is rooted in that, but I doubt it. Perkins's debut is a delightful love story, and by page 20, I was hooked.

When we meet Anna, she's being left at the School of America in Paris (SOAP) by her pretentious, nouveau riche writer-dad and her teacher-mom for a senior year abroad.

She's crying and is befriended by her neighbor--a bushy, bushy blonde soccer player named Meredith. Then we meet Etienne St. Clair, Meredith's secret crush and ultimately Anna's. He's very attractive, with great hair and a British accent. All major pluses.

Once St. Clair appears, the book tends to focus primarily on Anna's growing feelings for him, but that's okay because while it's happening, the reader gets this amazing trip through Paris as St. Clair shows Anna the city and helps her venture out of her shell.

Perkins does a great job with this part, and I enjoyed "seeing" the sites with these guys and learning about historic landmarks. Great writing here.

As the story progresses, it's clear Etienne likes Anna, too, but they face some challenges--he has a college girlfriend he's reluctant to break up with, Anna has a crush back home she still has feelings for, they both know the end of the year will be the end of their time together. It's an engaging set-up that works... for most of the book. And that brings me to my only small quibble.

I felt like Perkins did a great job creating realistic teenage emotions--the intense awkwardness and insecurity (also the clumsy, embarrassing moments when sex comes up). The characters' feelings are palpable and very relatable. But after Christmas break and particularly after Anna's birthday night out, I grew weary of St. Clair's dithering.

It's a pretty long book (384 pages), and perhaps some tightening would've helped. But! This isn't a major detraction, and the great chemistry between Anna and St. Clair keeps you wanting to know how it will end.

The cover is totally deceptive, just fyi. To me, it looks like Gidget goes to Paris, and the characters are not that square. Anna's got a bleach stripe in her hair and wants to be a film critic, and her best friend's a drummer in a punk band.

Heads up to moms: there's an F-bomb, there are references to characters having sex and sexual parts (but in a totally immature teenager way), and there is alcohol use (and misuse). But I think all are handled realistically and appropriately, and consequences as well as responsible behavior are presented.

Overall, I give Anna & the French Kiss a solid B+, and I think fans of YA romance will love this book. I know several of our bloggie friends have given it quibble-free raves, so don't let my minor complaints deter you. Run grab a copy (link)!
* * *

For fun, I'm throwing in a short, bonus review of my book club selection for this month, since it's also set in Paris. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is just a fantastic adult novel (non-YA) I probably would've missed if not for book club. So I'm giving you all the heads up!

It's a fictional story of a child who escapes the non-fictional round up of Jews living in Paris during World War II. I didn't know anything about what happened on the morning of July 17, 1942, so this was another educational read.

But again, the learning was easy as it was couched in an engaging story of an American journalist writing (and learning) about the events while dealing with her own personal challenges--her husband's deteriorating affection and her discovery that she's pregnant at 45.

The book is a super-fast page-turner with strong, emotional moments, and I highly recommend it. Julia Jarmond is a sympathetic main character who becomes obsessed with little Sarah when she discovers her husband's parents moved into Sarah's apartment-home after her Jewish family was deported (and later gassed).

I give this one an A, and I say definitely pick it up. It's about obsession, it's about choices, it's about growing older, it's about history and how events should be remembered... And I loved the ending. It was perfect. (link).

That's it for me reader-friends! Have a super week. Til Thursday~ <3


Laura Pauling said...

I really enjoyed Anna and the French Kiss. And yes, even though I love the cover, it doesn't rep the characters. But I don't think that's the goal anymore. :)

Melissa said...

I'm planning on reading this next month when school's out! It's my reward for finishing school!

Matthew MacNish said...

Does it have any sword fights?

Old Kitty said...

Thanks for these reviews!!! Yay!!

Ooh I do like your new blogheader too!!!! See you on Thursday! Take care

LTM said...

@Laura--You're right most of the time, although I thought Matched was perfectly covered. :D And I always judge books by their covers--LOL! I know--stop it! ;p <3

Creepy Query Girl said...

I really enjoyed Anna too- The author did a fantastic job introducing us to the city of lights and even though this was very much a character driven (not really plot driven) novel- I got wound enough up in their emotions to enjoy the small ups and downs.
The second book looks like a great (but emotional) read! Thanks for the review!

DEZMOND said...

romantic books and films are pretty much difficult to resist :) since we all love love :) but when they're set in Paris or Italy or any similar place it's totally impossible not liking them.

Angela said...

St. Claire did dither a bit, didn't he? Though I did feel sorry for him with everything that happened with his parents. And I admit I almost thought the main character better off without him when I understood the unhealthy dynamic between St. Claire and his father.

Stina said...

Anna on my list but it's not one I'm rushing to read. I've been to Paris. It sinks big time in the summer. The homeless can't afford the public washrooms (you have to pay for them), so they go everywhere else. Because of that, I just can't excited about the book. But I've heard some great things about it (and some not so great things), so maybe one day I'll pick it up.

Michelle Merrill said...

I just read Anna and the French Kiss too. It was a cute read. I like your review :)

Unknown said...

I felt the same way about Anna and the French Kiss--all good until it was obvious to EVERYONE that she liked him and he pretty obviously liked her and yet he still wouldn't end his dead in the water relationship.

I'll look for Sarah's Key. Thanks for the recommend!

Unknown said...

I heart both of these books! Anna and the French Kiss had me wanting to hop on the next plane to Paris just to experience hot boys and the city!

Sarah's Key was one I read while in a book group and won't regret reading it. Though it's not normally my style of read I'm glad the girls pushed me to read it! Another fabulous tale!

Great reviews! Loved the bonus!

Tracy said...

I haven't heard of the first book, well actually neither one but Sarah's Key looks very good and since you gave it an A, I'll have to be it on my list...My list is getting longer; ummm, means I need some days off! :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Gotta love the setting and the rest sounds wonderful too. It's a winner.

Colene Murphy said...

OOH! It sounds so good! I have it on my bedside table but keep putting it off for when I really need a fun romance to lift me up! Never know when those moments will hit.

RaShelle Workman said...

Hey Leigh - Thanks for the reviews. My YA has a couple of references to teenage alcohol use without consequenses - really. Eeep, something to think about.

Sarah's Key sounds fantastic. I love great endings. =D

Lydia Kang said...

That sounded like a very fair, honest review. One gets a little suspicious when there's nothing but positive reviews everywhere.
Thanks Leigh!

Jennie Bailey said...

Love love loved both books!! I may actually pick up Anna a second time after your review. You helped me remember why I loved it. I may need more! ;-)

Julie Musil said...

I've heard great things about Anna and the French Kiss. I still haven't read it yet.

Saray's Key sounds riveting. I'm adding it to my list right now. I love deep, heartbreaking stories, especially when they're based on some truth.

Thanks for the heads up on these books!

Ella said...

I bought Sarah's Key for my daughter's b-day! The first book sounds amazing, but loses some steam, but still sounds like my kind of book~ Thanks Leigh for sharing your take on these. I look forward to adding them to my long list to read! Thanks for stopping by today~
<3 555

Unknown said...

They sound like wonderful books! I love the covers on both, especially the second one. Thanks for the reviews. I like how you give parental ratings.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Read Anna - it was cute. I had the chance to pick up Sarah's Key last night, but I chose something else. Been reading too much sad stuff lately.

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks for the up-front reviews, Leigh. I'm not much for books that dither (and I've heard that Kiss does that) so think I'll pass, BUT my eyes popped when I read the bonus (thanks) and Sarah's Key. Wrote it down, love page turners!

Easy French said...

This is a very good book. Recommended !
Nice review by the way :)


LTM said...

@Cathy--I liked it very much, and thank you! Thanks for stopping by~ :o)

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