I finally get why Anna and the French Kiss keeps popping up on so many Top Ten Tuesday lists – it’s wonderful! I was a little worried that it wouldn’t live up to all of the hype, but it really is a great book. I stayed up until midnight last night to finish it, and despite being exhausted this morning I still have a smile on my face from the experience.
One of my main reasons for liking Anna and the French Kiss is Anna herself. She feels like a kindred spirit, someone I can relate to and understand. It was such a relief to read about a person whose reactions to the events of her life are so similar to what my own would be under the same circumstances. For example, I’m a very nervous traveler. As much as I like the idea of seeing the world, the reality is that learning a new culture and being far from my family scares me to death. This is the case for Anna as well. When her parents send her overseas to spend a year in a French boarding school, she’s terrified. She sobs in her room after arriving at the school, only leaves the campus under duress, and feels overwhelmed and out of place. This is exactly how I would’ve reacted, and it was nice to see a protagonist deal with the same worries and anxieties and be able to overcome them.
Anna is a likable character, with fascinating interests and great drive and dedication. I enjoyed watching her grow over the course of the book. Her transformation from a scared, anxious, overwhelmed girl who didn’t want to go out of her comfort zone to someone brave and willing to try new things is a natural and believable one.
I also like that although Anna is spunky and smart and fun, she has negative qualities as well. She does a lot of crying, overreacts at times, has the occasional angry outburst, and lashes out and says things she doesn’t mean when hurt or upset. You’d think this would make her less likable, but the opposite is actually true. It makes her more interesting than if she were Little Miss Perfect, and it made me as a reader feel camaraderie with her.
Likewise, Anna’s love interest, the wonderful American/British/French Etienne St. Clair, is the perfect mix of delightful and real. He’s charming and quirky and cute, with a sexy British accent and a fascination with history and random trivia. He’s also on the shorter side, though he carries himself with enough swagger and confidence, and exudes such an air of charisma and magnetism, that he seems taller. He’s horrifically afraid of heights, can be mopey and unwittingly hurtful/unfair, and at one point in the book gets so intoxicated he throws up on Anna. All of these flaws are actually part of St. Clair’s appeal. He’s fun and interesting, unique among other male characters I’ve read about. He’s not some impossibly perfect boy toy but instead is the type of guy you could conceivably meet in the real world
The romance between Anna and St. Clair is lovely, although it’s quite exasperating that they have so many misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and instances of poor timing to contend with. Their relationship, which starts as a friendship and grows into something more, is the type that warms you from the inside out. I loved how they are always there for one another and how they always try to do what is best for each other even at the expense of their own happiness.
That’s not to say that they always act selflessly. St. Clair especially is a bit unfair in some of his actions. Again, though, their weaknesses made for a more believable, meaningful relationship once they finally got their problems straightened out.