Anna can’t wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?*
*Sigh* I did it again. I told myself I wouldn’t read this book in a day because after I went through ANATOMICAL that quickly I found myself missing the characters a lot the next day. Well, that will probably be the case with this book as well. Etienne St. Clair is dreamy–English accent (do I really need to go on?), Parisian/American/British upbringing, good looks, and a ridiculous amount of charm? Sign me up.
Anna is a very relatable protagonist, who goes through pretty much every emotion available to human beings over the course of the novel, which is about nine months. She gets mad, sad, drunk, and overjoyed; she learns how to be more independent and how to overcome fights with friends in ways that allow her to still remain friends with those people. She grows up a lot during her senior year at SOAP and while following her journey can be a rollercoaster of emotion at times, it’s a delight to see her come to a better understanding of herself and the people around her.
I’ve been to Paris twice, but I was very young so I don’t remember much about it. Stephanie Perkins managed to dredge up some of my memories of the place, though, because her descriptions of the city are so vivid. Anna mentions that she is going to miss the opera singer from the restaurant across the street from her dorm room and, honestly, I think I might miss her, too even though she was only mentioned in passing a handful of times. Along with Notre Dame and Point Zero, the Pantheon, the gardens, heck, even the cemetery! I don’t think I really noticed as I was reading just how present the setting is in the story, because the descriptions were woven so seamlessly with the dialogue and narration, but looking back on it now I realize that I have a vivid picture in my mind of all the places the characters went to.
Some of the peripheral characters felt stereotypical, but the main characters had a depth to them that made up for the cliches in the background. We learn a lot, though not all at once, about the home lives of Anna and Etienne, who have been sent away to this boarding school. Perkins deals with emotionally abusive and controlling parents in an interesting way. Many times, authors will wrap things up neatly at the end, giving the characters and the people they are struggling against some sort of breakthrough moment in which all problems are solved. Perkins doesn’t take that route, which makes it much more realistic because how often in real life do people suddenly realize that they are in the wrong or that their problems are caused by an easily solved lack of communication?
Despite dealing with some heavy topics, this book felt like a very light read to me overall. It contains many elements typical of a novel set in high school: romance, friendship drama (usually caused by boys and jealousy, so again, realistic), fist fights, miscommunications, drinking, etc. and it deals with it all in a way that is very understanding. I’ve read books where the characters go through all of these trials and cope with them in ways that real people do every day, but instead of handling the situations realistically it’s like the author wants to give readers a slap on the wrist and a reminder that this is not how these things are to be handled. Perkins didn’t do that. She let Anna and Etienne and all the others make mistakes, and then she said *it’s all going to be okay*. People screw up. People say and do things they don’t mean. But that doesn’t mean they’re terrible people, it just means they’re human.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a light read that still manages to contain a lot of depth. I can’t wait to dive into LOLA tomorrow!
*Synopsis and cover image are from Amazon.com.