Guest Post: Anna and the French Kiss – a writer’s point of view

author's headshot taken by magan blasig of magan's lensHello, I’m Anna!  I fell in love with children’s and YA literature four years ago when I was teaching at a private school. Of all the monotonous things that happened in my classroom, reading books was not among them. Crack open that cover, and a new world, a best friend, a glorious adventure emerged. I’d always enjoyed reading and had dabbled in writing, but I never made much of the hobby. Until four years ago. I stopped teaching full-time and poured myself into the art form, writing whatever story wanted to be told. Because I met my husband at 17 and was married at 22, young love stories are one of my favorites to tell, and have currently immersed myself in one. Anais Nin once said, “We write to taste life twice…” And I couldn’t agree more. I write because life is worth living and cherishing, and I want to let its flavors linger as long as possible.
When Magan informed me she wanted to post my review of Anna and the French Kiss, I couldn’t be happier!  As an aspiring author, it’s a privilege to dissect the creative genius of a writer as talented as Stephanie Perkins. It’s clear from her writing that she spends so much time getting to know her characters–something that motivates me to spend more time with mine. They say you have to love what you write if your reader is ever going to have a chance to. Well, bravo, Ms. Perkins! I can’t imagine the blast you had writing this book, because I had beyond a fantastic time reading it.

From the very beginning, I knew what this book was going to be about–Anna learning to love France, or whatever France had in store for her. She didn’t want to go, which meant she was going to end up liking it, which begged the question Why? From the title, I knew the answer was A boy, and that, of course, kept me reading.

Anna’s voice was strong, clear, and consistent from beginning to end. I knew exactly who she was, what she wanted, and even what she wanted to be when she “grew up.” Her idiosyncrasies and insecurities made her authentically adolescent. She was easy to relate to and downright likable. Although not a saint, the fact that she wouldn’t go after a boy who was already taken gave her integrity and made me root for her. If Anna were a real person, I would want to be her friend – one of the many reasons I couldn’t put this book down (I mean, turn my Kindle off).

All the other characters in the book rang true as well. Best of all, Anna’s love interest was honest, real, and anything but the archetypal tall, dark, and handsome male. He was a friend first – a real friend – which is a refreshing take on a love story.

As for the setting, there was something magical about Ms. Perkins’ presentation of France, something that, when contrasted heavily with Anna’s return to America, made me really want to visit Paris! From the food to the films to the quaint cafes and shops, I was excited to explore the city with Anna and her friends.

When it comes to wit and humor, Anna and the French Kiss had it. Both Anna’s external foibles and her interpretations of life were laugh-out-loud funny. But while she and her friends were still high schoolers, they also had class.  Their tastes were more refined than what mine were as a teenager, and their topics of conversation more sophisticated than weekend plans or who’s going out with whom. This made them constantly interesting to read about.

As for experiencing the story in first person present tense, I loved it! It made me appreciate everything Anna lived through in the most immediate and intimate sense. What better way to get inside the head of the protagonist than to have her tell you everything as it’s happening, instead of as a memory, far removed from the here and now?

I will admit, Anna and the French Kiss was recommended highly, so there was a lot to live up to. But the story did not disappoint. It was smart and funny and more than anything, full of heart. I know I love a book when, upon reading the last sentence, I flip back to Chapter 1 to start over.  And that’s exactly what I did with Anna.

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Anna Sargeant lives with her husband and dog in Austin, TX, where she writes curriculum for a living. She enjoys watching movies, traveling, and eating out, like most Austinites. She and Magan have been close friends for five years. They meet every Friday to catch up on life and try to get a little work done.

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