Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.
When a book is so beloved across the blogosphere there are really two things that can happen - it either lives up to the hype or you are left scratching your head wondering what can everyone else see that I just can't. I have had my fair share of the latter over the years, but I am very happy to say that this was not one of those experiences! I loved this book!
The book opens with our title character, Anna, being informed that she is going to be going to a boarding school in Paris for her final year, and to say that she is not best pleased is an understatement. She doesn't want to go to Paris, she doesn't want to leave her friends behind, especially not the guy who could be, might be, her boyfriend, maybe, and it certainly doesn't help that she doesn't speak a word of French.
In the end, Anna is given no choice by her father who is deliciously portrayed as a Nicholas Sparks like author who most definitely doesn't write romances, but who has had his five hankys required movies adapted for the screen and is now a really big deal. Anna and her father have a lot of father-daughter issues that are familiar territory - divorce and the associated hurts for starters, but even worse is that Anna is something of a film buff and she is mortified by his movies.
In fact, there is quite a bit of familiar YA territory covered in this novel. I have mentioned the parent child relationships, but others include the fish out of water scenario, young love, friendship. Don't, however, let this be off putting because it is all extremely well done, and the voices of the characters are fresh and compelling.
Alone in her room after being delivered to Paris, Anna is crying in her bedroom when she is interrupted by her next door neighbour, Meredith, who along with her friends, adopts Anna. In the group are Josh and his girlfriend Rashmi, along with Etienne St Clair.
Now, I need to get this out of the way early. I know that I am more than old enough to be his mother, and I know it is kind of wrong of me to be drooling over him, but Etienne St Clair is by far one of the best YA heroes (for want of a better word) that I have read in a long time. The author hasn't made the mistake of making Etienne perfect, although he does apparently have pretty fantastic hair, is funny, has a British accent, speaks perfect French and more. He most definitely has flaws and his own set of issues including parent issues, and there is of course the fact that he already has a girlfriend to contend with as well.
Anyway... back to the book. Anna struggles to adapt to life in a strange city. It is really only once she is forced to leave the safety of the college that she begins to appreciate living in Paris and to realise that just because she is away from home she doesn't have to leave behind the things that she loves. Along the way, Anna experiences growing feelings for Etienne, betrayal, self discovery and so much more. She experiences life.
This novel takes a familiar premise and builds from there with excellent characterisation, believable situations for the characters and believable character growth, and grows into an excellent read. All of this means that Perkins' next book, which is a companion novel to this one and is called Lola and the Boy Next Door is one of my most anticipated new books over the coming few months.
Weekend Cooking post I did about this book a while ago where Anna's visit to a Paris patisserie is described. I am off to reread the quotes myself so that I can salivate over the descriptions again.
This book is one of those books that I would suggest that you could give to people who don't normally read YA as an example of example of excellent young adult literature, and is one of the few books that I have rated as 5/5 reads this year.