Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Dear Stephanie Perkins:

I am disgruntled today, and it is because I stayed up until after 3 a.m. to finish reading your wonderful debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss. It is entirely unfair that your story was just that good at hooking me into the novel that I couldn't quite muster the willpower to put it down. It is extremely wrong that the writing was so terrific that my brain staved off ordinary sleepiness AND the two Tylenol PMs that I took to help with arthritis pains. I took those Tylenol at midnight, by the by, and they usually have a soporific effect in about 20 minutes, so more than three hours of additional alertness is unusual.

Any disgruntlement (is that a word?) is, however, completely overbalanced by the complete joy I have over reading a contemporary YA romance novel that gets so very many things right. Maybe it's the lack of sleep talking, but I didn't find anything wrong in there. Wait - I know there was this one sentence where I questioned the phrasing, but seriously, that was it. (And hey, you have a phenomenal editor, so it's probably I who is mistaken. Also, it's a sentence kind of like that, and now I'm wondering if "is" should be "am". *headdesk*)

I loved Anna. I loved her voice and her spirit. I loved that her father was Nicholas Sparks James Ashley, who churns out stories (that become movies) about people who fall in love, get cancer, then die, and that she's appalled by him and his books. I loved that she was so fiercely devoted to her much-younger brother, Sean, and that she proved to be that way with friends like Bridgette (at least until Christmas) and Meredith. I loved that she was so funny. I loved that she made horrifying mistakes in judgment and was too blind to see what every. single. person around her knew all year, because it rings so very true to life, and that she was willing to do what she could to put things right.

And I love Étienne St. Clair, the beautiful boy with the fabulous hair who turns out to be Anna's hero (in more ways than one). Wanna know where I fell in love with this book? (Not with Anna or Étienne, but with your book?) It was this bit from page 16:

The beautiful boy gives an amused grin. His teeth are lovely -- straight on top and crooked on the bottom, with a touch of overbite. I'm a sucker for smiles like this, due to my own lack of orthodontia. I have a gap between my front teeth the size of a raisin.

"Étienne," he says. "I live one floor up."

"I live here." I point dumbly at my room while my mind whirs: French name, English accent, American school. Anna confused.[Italics are mine.]
Yeah, right there - while I was teetering before then, that last bit clinched it for me, and henceforth and forevermore I was in love with your book. But I digress.

I should be saying more about the beautiful Étienne, who is kind and smart and so obviously into Anna that it's hilarious that she wonders if he likes her or not, and yet any girl in her position would be wondering exactly the same thing. I really like that one of the things that Anna likes about him is his hands (and not just because the MC in the novel I'm working on happens to have a thing for the guy's hands, but that is probably part of it - heck, the fact that I'm working on a contemporary YA romance with a guy who obviously likes the girl and a girl who wonders whether he likes her or not (and who first meet by slamming into one another) predisposes me to love Étienne St. Clair and this story - but again, I digress. And if you're wondering, this is exactly how I write letters when I write them - lots of parentheses and digressions. Eep.)

I'm so very glad that Kristina Duewell, your cover designer, got the guy just right. Not that you can see his beautiful face (which would be nice), but his hand is perfect - he has the hand of a man, not a boy, and that is one thing on which Anna remarks more than once, and seeing it done right on the cover made me pleased beyond belief. It's the small things, I guess.

I could tell from the start that this was a romance, so I expected the book to have a happy ending (and it had a most satisfying happy ending indeed). And I knew that it was going to take the whole school year to get there because hey, poor Anna was shipped off to boarding school so obviously the school year was our established time frame for story development. And I predicted a couple of the plot points - such as the exact cause of Anna's split from the boy she left at home - but I'm good with that, because while I saw it coming a mile away, Anna didn't. See, I was reading a romance novel, but Anna? Anna was just living her life, and she didn't see it coming at all, and I found that entirely plausible.

I loved how details and behaviors came into play. Early on, Anna is reminded that her dorm door locks automatically behind her - and sure enough there comes a time when she gets locked out of her room. Even though I'm dying for Étienne to ditch his girlfriend Ellie, I love how he's such a steady guy that he regularly schleps across Paris to visit her at her college. I also love that he's afraid of heights, and how all those things come back later in the book.

So, to sum up, Stephanie, I loved your book. And we should totally be friends. If you want. No pressure.

Most sincerely,
Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

Kiva - loans that change lives


Lale said...

Fab post :) Although I've professed my love for Anna in various forums since I read it, I never managed to actually give concrete examples, and I completely agree with yours!

Kelly Fineman said...

It's such a fabulous book - I've already re-read it once, and I fully intend to do so again in the future!