This book is adorable. And rather hard to put down. Anna is a fun character with a bleached streak in her hair and the unusual goal to become a movie critic. We meet her on the eve of being shipping off to boarding school in Paris. She’s less than thrilled. This was a tough moment for me, since I would be jumping up and down like a mad thing if I got the chance to go to school in Paris. But I totally get that she’s mostly mad that she didn’t get a choice, and also pretty scared about being on her own in Paris at 17. She’s leaving her disfunctional-but-loved family, her best friend Bridgette, and her almost-maybe-boyfriend-guy Toph.
When she gets to Paris she is pretty timid, and refuses to go out by herself or order food in French. But she quickly gets absorbed by a wonderful group of friends who help break her out of her shell and get her to love Paris. There’s her neighbor Meredith, soccer (sorry – football!) nut and chocolat chaud lover. There’s the couple, Josh and Rashmi…and then there’s Etienne St. Clair. The beautiful boy with the British accent, the perfect hair, and…the girlfriend.
Anna is instantly smitten, but talks herself down time and time again, knowing he is in a serious relationship. They become great friends, and spend a lot of time together exploring Paris. Etienne seems attracted to her, but still spends time with his girlfriend Ellie, which confuses Anna to no end. Etienne tells her that she is beautiful, and he relies on her heavily when his mom is diagnosed with cancer. They are the only ones in the dorm for Thanksgiving break, which leads to all sorts of wonderful moments – this was a highlight of the book for me. They are so sweet and confused and innocent. Like I said, adorable. However, even after their amazing Thanksgiving together, Anna and Etienne are still confused and awkward. Ellie is still in the picture, and Anna is getting frustrated and decides to revisit the idea of dating Toph. Even with the tension between them mounting, Anna and Etienne talk constantly while they are apart for Christmas break. Etienne is the one Anna calls when she finds out that her best friend Bridgette has started dating Toph. Anna and Etienne seem on the verge of something great, but it all falls apart when they get back to school.
Anna has reached the end of her patience with the Etienne/Ellie situation, and she has a sort of breakdown. She makes some bad choices, and does a lot of yelling. It was a low point for the character, but I was also proud of her for telling Etienne that she was upset with his choices and telling him what she wanted. I alterenated between being all “oh, honey no, don’t do that…” to cheering for her in the next chapter. All in all, pretty natural teenage reaction.
I won’t spoil the end, but this is a romantic book, so I’ll leave it at that.
All in all, pretty sugary, but I loved it. Loved the Paris setting, really enjoyed the characters, both main and secondary. The situation and reactions were realistic. Very cute. Good for Sarah Dessen fans. Looking forward to reading Perkin’s other book – “Lola and the Boy Next Door”. I read that it’s a companion novel, I’m interested to find out how – there was no Lola character in “Anna”.