Tag Archives: friendship

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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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”.

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Shine by Lauren Myracle

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This was an extraordinary and haunting book. Cat and Patrick had been best friends all their lives, growing up in a tiny town in the hills of North Carolina. When Cat is 13, she suffers a sexual assault, and withdraws from everyone in her life, including Patrick. Therefore, she watches from the sidelines as he enters high school and is tormented daily for being gay.

Three years later, Patrick is attacked and left for dead at a gas station. Cat is furious that the local police are not making much effort to solve the hate crime. So, as Patrick lies in a coma, Cat sets off to investigate on her own, and starts to come to terms with her own assault and it’s aftermath. She starts talking to people again, trying to get to the bottom of the crime, and also getting to know her town and classmates again. Things start getting tense and dangerous as she gets closer to the real attacker, and Cat realizes she might need allies after all.

This was such an amazing book – an important book. I read it all in one sitting yesterday, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’m even going out of order in my reviews to write about it sooner! The characters are stunningly real – flawed and scared and good and wonderful all at once.

I read a negative review of this book today that said the author forgave too much. I respectfully disagree – there was a lot of forgiveness in this book, but that was the lesson, the whole message. There had been so much violence and upheaval in that town already, and I really felt like the characters reached a peace that could not have been achieved had there been a horrible witch hunt. I respect them for being able to forgive, when there was so MUCH to forgive.

This is a big book – a book that should be taught in schools, read with families, talked about with friends. It made me realize exactly how much hate and pure ignorance still exists, even in our modern times. That people are just plain clueless about what it is to be gay, and are afraid of what they don’t understand.

I know that’s not news, but it shocks me, still. That is why this book is so important – so these conversations can happen, and bring some light to the ignorance.

Go get this book – talk about it with young people, talk about it with older people – think about it’s messages.

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt

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This was a quick read, but very touching and real. Drew is a quiet 13-year-old with no true friends besides her mom and her pet rat, Hum. She helps out at her mom’s gourmet cheese shop in a city in between LA and San Francisco. Drew keeps to herself, pondering the weird world of Jr High and reading “The Book of Lists” – a notebook written by her father, who passed away when Drew was three.

Then one day she meets Emmett Crane, a boy who is constantly hungry, and bears mysterious scars. They are drawn to one another, but it takes a few rocky starts before they trust each other enough to divulge secrets. Drew finds out that Emmett has run away from home, and is seeking a miracle. He plans to find a hot spring that was in a legend he was told as a child. This hot spring is supposed to bring healing for the people you love. Emmett’s brother never learned to talk, and they have no money to get him help. Emmett is willing to risk everything to help his brother, and Drew quickly gets swept up in helping him reach his goal. She has to make some big decisions, and risks damaging her relationship with her mother in order to start breaking some rules to help her friend.

I loved this book – it felt so real. Drew and Emmett are such great characters, and their friendship is great. They’re 13 and 14, so there is plenty of awkwardness and tension, but also just real, genuine friendship. I loved that they were a boy and a girl who were just friends – the author didn’t feel the need to pair them off, send them to college together and live happily ever after. They share one sweet kiss, then part ways.

I also loved the mother-daughter relationship. Since it’s been just the two of them for so long, they have a fun and trusting relationship, but Drew is classically 13 – pushing boundaries and feeling misunderstood, yet missing all the struggle her mother is going through. Drew never sets out to hurt her mother, but ultimately puts her through a lot of worry. On the other hand, her mother doesn’t really take the time to listen to WHY Drew is suddenly breaking rules. In general, very realistic and believable.

Loved it. Go read it!