Sunday, 1 January 2017

Anna and the French Kiss Series Review

Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After are a trilogy of young-adult romance novels by Stephanie Perkins. They are set in the same universe and work as a series, so it is a good idea to read them sequentially. Anna is my favourite of the trilogy, but they were all a fun, light-hearted read.

I love how we are introduced to Anna’s hobby (watching and reviewing movies) by page eight, and her dream is to be a film critic. Too often, female characters can go entire books without ever having established interests. In fact, the fact that so many of the supporting cast get their hobbies stated so quickly (Meredith with football, Étienne with history, Bridgette with drums and a tendency to use sesquipedalian words and Josh with art) helps them feel like well-rounded characters before we know much about them. I wasn’t a fan, however, of the fact that Étienne had to tell her that Paris was famous for films. Wouldn’t she likely know that already? This is a tendency that plays into Lola, where we find out about her wanting to be a designer from the blurb on the back. Her best friend likes mysteries and fancies herself a detective. It’s the little things like that that really make characters and a story live and breath.

I was actually all ready to complain about how American writers can never write English characters well, that we don’t really all talk like that. But then I realised that, as an American raised in London and now going to a school for Americans, wouldn’t Étienne naturally play up his Britishness somewhat?

I was also going to complain about Anna complaining about being sent away to Paris, when most people would love to have that chance. But the reasons for her being upset were more valid that I realised. She was more upset about her lack of choice in the matter, and quickly settles down into enjoying Paris and all it has to offer.

Lola suffers somewhat from middle-child-of-a-trilogy syndrome. By taking place away from the School of America in Paris, it loses some of the charm that Anna has. Also, since we also meet Isla during Anna’s story, and we already know her to be a shy but brave individual, I found myself enjoying her story more. Since Anna is involved in Lola, someone who reads these sequentially may find themselves more interested in Anna’s story then in Lola’s. Isla brings back the couples from the previous two books, but they never seem to overshadow Isla’s story, possibly because we knew both her and her love interest from earlier.

Lola touches on darker subjects then Anna – drug use, having an older boyfriend – but it still retains, at its heart, the sweet love story feel. I did like the descriptions of Lola’s outfits every time. Some people could take those or leave them, but I loved them, and they were perfectly fitting for a designer.

Isla is a slow build. The conflict is not in her and Josh getting together, but with something that happens later. It does mean that the story feels slow to get going. During her story, we see New York City, showing us a place many of us would love to visit. Over the course of the book, she also visits Barcelona. I like it when books evocate places like that, or Paris say. It feels like you are travelling to the place along with the characters, like they’re showing you around. Or is that just me?

I mentioned earlier that I like how both Anna and Lola have established dreams and hobbies fairly early on, which is why I was disappointed that we never find out Isla’s ambitions or interests except for reading, only about her crush on Josh. More so then the other two, her story revolves around her romance. Although I do think it’s important to remind people that not everyone has their life mapped out by eighteen.

The descriptions of what it feels like to have a crush are some of the most well-written depictions of that feeling I have ever read. Stephanie Perkins talks in great detail about how hyper-aware you become of every little thing that they do.

I found a lack of positive female friendships in Anna a disappointment, many of the ones that were there was tinged with some level of bitchiness or jealousy. Not to spoil the end, however, but some of them do work out nicely. Lola, however, improves on this, giving her two strong female relationships throughout the book – Anna and Lindsey. Isla, however, doesn’t have many friends who are girls, but she does make some progress with both her ex-best friend and her younger sister over the course of the books.

All three girls have something in common – they act like teenagers, with all that applies. Occasionally selfish or stupid, they sometimes make the wrong decisions. But this is why they are so relatable, and all three have their hearts in the right place.

I ran into a few, what I consider factual inaccuracies. Many Parisians don’t speak English well! You don’t get inside Notre Dame without buying a ticket and waiting in a queue for ages! But they weren’t common enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.

I would recommend this series to anyone who likes a good romance, even if they wouldn’t normally choose a young adult one. Anyone who has ever experiences feelings of being in love should identify with what these characters go through. Also, can I just say I love their front covers?

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