ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS
Most young people would be thrilled with the prospect of spending an entire school year abroad in Paris, but Anna is most certainly not one of those people at the moment. Forced to attend an American boarding school in the City of Light on the whim of her famous-author father, Anna finds herself alone in her dorm room on her first night, crying into her pillowcase.
Luckily for Anna, her next door neighbor Meredith is familiar with both the school and Paris and quickly introduces Anna to her core group of friends. Handsome, funny, and deliciously English St. Clair quickly catches her attention, and despite his commitment to longtime girlfriend Ellie, Anna can't help but find herself increasingly drawn to him.
Soon, Anna finds that not only is St. Clair handsome, but he's also very easy to talk to and seems quite interested in helping her get to know Paris. Relationship drama, family discord, and friendship turmoil find their way into Anna's everyday life, and the one person who helps her through it all and the one person she wants most remains frustratingly and heartbreakingly unavailable.
Anna and the French Kiss is one of those rare stories where we find ourselves instantly enamored, so swept up in the emotional conflict our facial muscles become sore from the constant oscillation between the dopey grin we are helpless to stifle during moments of innocent flirting, and the furrowed brow and drawn mouth that result when events don't go the way we hoped. It's a sweet, honest, and endearing tale illustrating how often we get in our own way in relationships, our ability to communicate utterly foiled by overthinking and overanalyzing every minute detail, thereby keeping us from the very thing we crave most and might actually acquire if we could overcome our paralyzing fear of rejection and find our voice. We clutch the pages with palms gone sweaty from the prevalent romantic tension, leaving behind a physical imprint on the book in reciprocation for the intangible but powerful impression it leaves on our hearts.
Anna is adorable and lovable, full of anxiety and insecurity over attending an international boarding school, but she impresses us by putting on a brave face most of the time, making friends of both the other students and us as readers very easily. Her inner monologues and quips are a constant source of humor, and we seamlessly slip into her mind and vicariously live out her story as though it were our own, sharing with her the dreamy stares in St. Clair's direction and the constant longing to be viewed as someone other than the best friend. Though Anna has intense feelings for St. Clair, she doesn't mope, pine, or lose herself completely in her infatuation, instead building a camaraderie and a touching friendship that simmers with a nail-biting amorous suspense, and overflows with a potential we want to see fulfilled with every fiber of our being.
St. Clair is undeniably worthy of Anna's attention, exuding blissfully believable levels of charm and wit, and leaving the overconfident bravado and pretty-boy swagger to less worthy and less interesting fictional leading men. He's physically attractive enough to warrant the ample amount of female attention he receives, but he's not so inhumanly beautiful that we can't conceive of his interest in Anna, and while he possesses an impressive number of positive attributes, he also makes several infuriating and hurtful decisions that bring him down off an unreachable pedestal and make him both more accessible and more intriguing for his flaws. Their courtship is almost painfully slow, but it's the type of pain that tingles with sensual restraint, and we find ourselves positively vibrating with tension as we not so patiently wait for the moment when passion will overtake propriety, and romantic satisfaction will finally replace the anticipation and anxiety coursing through our veins.
Anna and the French Kiss is a story that makes us smile and laugh, but also one that keeps our insides in knots as we walk the sometimes painful and uncomfortable path toward love. Anna welcomes us into her life with open arms, holding nothing back and allowing us to see all of her insecurities coupled with her extraordinary strengths, and we can't help but adore her for the joy she brings us as we fumble our way through the City of Light together. A heartwarming tale at it's finest, this book is one that can be read again and again as we never tire of the butterflies in our stomachs, the flush to our skin, and the catch in our breathing as we experience first love and all it entails.