1.24.2011

Foodie Books for Kids: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

Buzz, buzz, buzz...that's all I keep hearing about Stephanie Perkins' debut novel ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (Dutton, 2011).  It's "charming", "sweet", "fun".  On a personal note, friends were recommending it to me, telling me it was "right up your alley" and "suits your tastes perfectly".  Then there was the "Laura!  It's PARIS!  FOOOD!"

I scored myself a copy (thanks to the awesome folks at Penguin) and I was sucked in the moment I started it.  Sure, there are the obvious things I loved about it: France, travel, food, love, friendship.  Of course.  But there's something more to it; this story rises above the chick-lit nature of its cover.  Here is an example:

I look down, and I'm surprised to find myself standing in the middle of a small stone circle.  In the center, directly between my feet, is a coppery-bronze octagon with a star.  Words are engraved on the stone around it: POINT ZERO DES ROUTES DE FRANCE.
"Mademoiselle Oliphant.  It translates to 'Point zero of the roads of France.'  In other words, it's the point from which all other distances in France are measured."  St. Clair clears his throat.  "It's the beginning of everything."
I look back up.  He's smiling.
"Welcome to Paris, Anna.  I'm glad you've come."

And that, in a nutshell, lies the appeal of this book.  That feeling, of starting at the beginning, isn't a teen-specific emotion; it's a human emotion.  That idea of going someplace, of starting over, is so appealing and fresh.  If you will, it's a little EAT, PRAY, LOVE.  I've always been in love with the idea that, in leaving your comfort zone, you might just find yourself.  This story is also about forgiveness, making mistakes, and being honest with yourself - and goodness knows that we could all use a little of that.  My point being that I want to urge people not to dismiss this as fluff - I felt like it had weight and substance in surprising ways and has lots of crossover appeal.

And of course there's food: it's Paris.  I knew it was going to be good when, on page 26, I read, "Said boy asks rapidly, 'Yogurt with granola and honey, soft-boiled egg, or pears on brioche?'"  Mmm...pears on brioche!  And there's a section dedicated to Girl Scout cookies that thrilled me: "Josh snatches it from him.  'Not just any cookies, my fine English fellow.  Thin Mints.'"

Once again, I find myself reading a book that I wish I had written myself.  I relished every second of it and marveled, once again, at how wonderful it is when you read the perfect book for you at the perfect moment and it all clicks and you aren't quite the same for a few days afterward.  Don't you love that, too?

What perfect books have you read at that perfect moment in your life?

8 comments:

Beth S. said...

I felt exactly the same way you did - I was seriously bummed that I hadn't thought to write this book myself. Most importantly, I loved the the relationship wasn't just Anna swooning over St. Clair the whole time. There was real substance to their relationship. Far too few YA romance novels are written with anything substantive added to the relationship.

Laura Lutz said...

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Yes! I really felt like the story was more about Anna's coming of age and her emotional maturation. It wasn't just about her falling in love...she had to learn what love *wasn't* first before she could fall in love with St. Clair.

I also appreciated the friendship-related storyline: so much of being a teenager (hell, and being an adult) is learning how to be a good friend and learning how to recognize a bad one. And how being a friend can mean saying you're sorry...a lot.

Lastly, I got a secret delight out of the end...when Anna had to admit that maybe her dad was right. 8-)

Stephanie Perkins said...

A friend at Harper just forwarded me a link to this post.

I am all astonishment. Thank you for your very, very kind words. I'm so happy that you felt this way about it. (And I *love* the comparison to Eat, Pray, Love!)

Merci.

Kristin Cashore said...

Kristin Lavransdatter (helped me write Fire) and His Dark Materials (helped me let go of years of anger)! Also, my thesaurus is the perfect book for me at the perfect moment on a daily basis. Though maybe that's not what you meant. :o)

Laura Lutz said...

Well, not exactly, Kristin...but I'm not judging. Whatever does it for you! 8-)

marjorie said...

Cannot WAIT to read this. Great review. Did you see the interview with Stephanie on my pal Gayle Forman's blog? Is it any surprise that she is wearing an adorable ensemble?

As for the Perfect Book at the Perfect Time...Tom Robbins's Jitterbug Perfume, freshman year of college. The essence of the universe! The Bohemia-New-Orleans-y-ness! The passionate florid passionate floridness! The juicy-sexy-sexness! Of course, revisiting the book at thirtysomething was a bad idea. Mortifying. But it worked for me then.

Tarie said...

I read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which is very much about the secret to happiness, at a time when I was very unhappy. Needless to say, I cried at the end of the book.

Thank goodness Anna and the French Kiss is available in the Philippines! Will buy it soon. :o)

Laura Lutz said...

Tarie, I'm kind of embarrassed that I haven't read that one yet - most everyone I know in kids' books has read it and loved it. Will move it up my list. And, yes, buy ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS soon!

Marjorie, next time I have a chance to chat with you in front of the school, I want to raaaaave with you about WHERE I WENT. Just recently read it and...wow.