Miranda @ Bibliodaze

I'm an awesome 24 y/o reader and writer of YA fantasy/historical fantasy. I mainly write about awesome ladies and the people who love them. I work at a library and I'm a contributing reviewer to Bibliodaze.

Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins I’m going to be right up front and honest: I really, really, really did not like this book. Before I get into why I’m going to start off with the parts I did like. This won’t take long because there aren’t many. Perkins is definitely a talented writer as far as the technical stuff goes. Her prose flows nicely, Anna has a distinct voice (the only distinct voice in the novel, sadly), and not once did her writing feel strained or forced. She’s actually good, which is why my intense dislike of this book is disappointing. There was also a scene in the novel between Anna and her little brother Seany that made me smile because it was sweet and touching and realistic, and a few jokes here and there that made me laugh. But otherwise a lot of my feelings towards Anna and the French Kiss consist of intense dislike... okay I’ll be honest, more like actual hate. There were several times when I honestly had to put the book down and walk away for a while because I was getting so angry. I don’t generally have a problem with books or movies that concern themselves solely with how the main characters get together. I find that the key to getting me interested in giving me good characters who work wonderfully together and level each other out. But I have to actually like the characters and their type of relationship if I’m going to spend a few hours reading their journey together. I did not like Anna and St. Clair’s relationship, and you can pretty much blame St. Clair for that. St. Clair, or Étienne, is pretty much a jerk. He’s not intended to come across that way--in fact he’s written to be the most perfect boyfriend a girl or guy could ever ask for. For most of the novel he comes across as too perfect, actually. Until we get to the reason why he and Anna can’t get together for most of the novel: He won’t break up with his current girlfriend, Ellie. Even though it’s extremely obvious to everyone, probably even Ellie herself, that he’s no longer in love with her, he won’t call it off. He would rather be miserable with her than initiate a change in his life, since it’s stated in the book that he’s afraid of change. I’m sorry but that’s the worst thing to do to a person. It’s disrespectful, to put it quite frankly, and it’s wrong to treat a person you supposedly loved at some point like that. For much of the book, while Anna was hating on Ellie (which I’ll get to in a moment, oh will I ever), I just kept thinking “Just wait, Anna. If he’s doing this to Ellie, he’ll do it to you one day.” As one would expect, that kind of put a huge damper on the whole romantic storyline. The plot line with Ellie just felt like a very weak, very convenient way to keep Étienne and Anna from getting together too fast. So given my intense dislike for Étienne, the book was already kind of doomed for me. After all, I have to like the other half of the couple if I’m going to be invested in a romance novel. But I could handle disliking Étienne if the rest of the book could make up for his jerkitude. Unfortunately there was more that irritated me than just Étienne. The secondary characters were pretty much just that. They came in and said stuff when the plot needed it (this is especially apparent in Meredith’s case) and then left so the book could focus on Anna and Étienne again. In the case of Meredith, Anna’s first new friend when she arrives in Paris, she’s in love with Étienne as well. I was hopeful that Meredith and Anna could settle things peacefully, or Meredith would admit her feelings to Étienne and then back off to let him decide who he wanted to be with. But no, of course Meredith takes it out on Anna instead of being cross with Étienne that he never discouraged her or made it plain that he wasn’t interested in being anything other than friends. Every time Anna and Étienne are remotely romantic with each other in front of their group of friends, Meredith gets jealous and pouty. These are pretty much the only times she’s present so it stands out. Then of course there’s Ellie, who meets Anna once and seems to like her okay. But then when Étienne is asking for Anna when he’s drunk, Ellie gets jealous and hateful towards Anna. Of course. Because we can’t have just one girl being all possessive and jealous to another girl over a guy; no, we have to have two! At one point Anna actually imagines causing Ellie bodily harm, when she should be angry with Étienne for stringing Ellie and her along for close to a year. Then there’s the stereotypical “slutty,” “bitchy,” rich popular girl Amanda who dislikes Anna on sight because Étienne is paying more attention to Anna than her. I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence, either, that “slutty” is used often in conjunction with Ellie and Amanda. Ellie dresses up as a slutty nurse for Halloween, Amanda is mentioned to have revealing clothing on most of the time. Anna, it’s mentioned, is still a virgin. I don’t think I’m wrong in believing the comparisons were deliberate there. I’m sorry but can we put these tropes/cliches to bed, already? I am tired of seeing girls fighting each other for a guy, especially a jerk like Étienne. It reinforces so, so many unpleasant stereotypes about women, and it teaches us that we should fight instead of supporting each other, while the guy gets away with bad behaviour, and I’m just sick of it. Yes, eventually Anna does stand up for Meredith against Amanda, but by that point it was too little, too late. I wish I could have liked Anna and the French Kiss more than I did. I suppose it’s a good thing it made me feel something, even if that something was intense hatred for all the cliches and offensive stereotypes the novel used. Despite the fact that I was not impressed with this novel, I’d be interested in seeing what else Perkins has to offer due to her talented writing. I can only hope she creates better, more sympathetic characters for her next novel, and doesn’t reinforce so many unpleasant stereotypes about women and romance.

Currently reading

A Feast for Crows
George R.R. Martin
Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media
Susan J. Douglas
The Winter Rose
Jennifer Donnelly
Progress: 259/720 pages