Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author(s): Stephanie Perkins
Reading Level/Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Publisher: Dutton Books (December 2, 2010)
Well, I don't even know what to say about this one because it I rarely talk about books that I didn't enjoy. However, so many people loved Anna and the French Kiss while I had such a strong dislike that I feel like I should explain why it didn't work for me.
But be warned, this has spoilers so do not read on if you don't like spoilers of any kind
Basically I didn't like the cheating that the two main characters do and how it was handled. And before someone tries to say "but wait, they didn't cheat!" read the book again. Because Etienne even admits to cheating on page 363 (in hardcover edition).
Etienne: "I'm saying I'm in love with you! I've been in love with you this whole bleeding year!"
Anna: My mind spins. "But Ellie-"
Etienne: "I cheated on her every day. In my mind, I thought of you in ways I shouldn't have, again and again. She was nothing compared to you. I've never felt this way about anybody before-"
And although he only admits to the emotional cheating and denies "actual cheating" in that same conversation, he does pursue Anna, flirtatiously touch her, and even spent several nights sleeping in same bed with her (though they do not have sexual contact) while still in the relationship with his long-term girlfriend Ellie. This kind of intimacy and emotional cheating just threw me completely! I didn't like that the storyline seemed to try and make all of it okay, or that major distress in life like a family member with cancer made Etienne's indiscretions logical or understandable.
I was kind of okay with the character of Anna because she at least tries to do the right thing, but even so it wasn't enough for me to be okay with the story. I hated Etienne for his leading on of girls! He leads on not only Anna, but also his long term girlfriend who he cheats on emotionally and physically (kissing Anna, sleeping in her room, flirty touches in movie theater etc), and also leads on a friend named Meredith with a crush on him!
As pointed out in excerpt below by Rashmi(page 315 hardcover) :
Anna: "I wasn't thinking, it just happened. I've ruined everything.
She hates me. Etienne hates me!"
Josh: "St. Clair definitely doesn't hate you," Josh says.
Rashmi: "Though if I were Mer, I'd hate him." Rashmi scowls. "He's been leading her on for way too long."
Josh is indignant. "He's never once given her the impression that he liked her more than a friend."
Rashmi: "Yeah but he's never discouraged her!"
Josh: "He's been dating Ellie for a year and a half. You'd think that'd be discouragement enough-oh. Sorry, Anna."
Anna: I sob harder.
I just could not get past all of these infidelities that happen repeatedly because of Etienne. And in my opinion, cheating is cheating no matter if it's emotional or physical in form. So yeah, I think he's a douche LOL
But I do also want to share what I did like about the book: I loved the details of Paris and SOAP, which is the school they attend there. The atmosphere and little details of French life for an American were fun to read about, and I enjoyed Anna's descriptions of how she navigated the new school and then a new and foreign city. And I liked that she was self-aware enough to know that her problems (of having to go to boarding school in Paris and liking an unavailable boy) were not on the same scale as others but also was still able to recognize and feel her feelings of loneliness and deal with them.
Overall, while I didn't like the book, I know a lot of others will and I hope that you'll check it out and decide for yourself if you think Etienne is swoon-worthy or not. And I'm actually looking forward to giving Lola and the Boy Next Door a try. I'm curious to see what happens there and if Stephanie is one of those hit and miss authors for me.