Today I wanted to talk about some books I read and had a lot of thoughts on.
I had decided to take a chance on the book Anna and the French Kiss after hearing YouTuber Kathleen Lights talk about this teen fiction novel… Well, actually, she named a nail polish after a character from the book, which really piqued my interest- she must have REALLY liked this book! Kathleen loves The Office, Friends, and a lot of the same makeup as me, so I figured maybe we’d like the same books, too.
I ordered Anna and the French Kiss off of Amazon, and it took me a little while to actually start reading it. It came out a while ago- back in 2010- and used to have a REALLY stupid cover, so I was still unsure about it. The title isn’t my favorite, either.
Then I actually started reading it, and I was intrigued. Anna and the French Kiss is about an Atlanta girl whose parents send her to a Parisian boarding school for Americans for her senior year. She’s not, like, a bad girl getting punished- they sent her there so her author father would seem more sophisticated.
I write about girls starting over their junior or senior years of high school, too, so I was fascinated to see someone else’s take on this. Anna was starting off in a strange place with a strange culture, which mirrored my experience of moving from New Jersey to Oahu, Hawaii as an eleventh grader.
This cover is much better than the one above, and I found myself highlighting every page. I was completely invested in Anna’s story!
Here’s the official description:
“Anna is 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. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne 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?”
This one had me staying up late reading. I had that magical feeling where I KNEW I was reading a special book that I would miss when it was over- but I still couldn’t get myself to slow down or savor it. I had to know how it ended. I was learning about conflict and pacing from this author, who does an amazing job.
Anna and the French Kiss has a 4.09 rating out of almost 300,000 ratings on Goodreads (!!!!!!) and is one of my favorite books of all time. I really wish I had known how special this book would be to me before I started reading it! I went in so reserved, like, ‘well, we’ll see I guess‘, when I should have saved it for a vacation or brought it with me down to the apartment pool for a nicer reading experience.
When I finished it, I started its companion book. I decided to read the third one in the little series rather than the second, since I wasn’t even sure if I’d be reading the second. I had heard some mixed reviews on it. It too had a hideous cover, and the setting had changed from Paris to San Francisco.
So I started Isla and the Happily Ever After instead, going out of order.
Right away, I thought this one was not as good as Anna and the French Kiss because that one’s premise- new girl falls for best friend– is just so hard to beat for me. Isla was about two seniors, Isla and Josh, at the same school in Paris as Anna and St. Clair. Josh and St. Clair are best friends, so the characters still interact even though its not Anna’s story, which I appreciated. Here’s the description:
Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.
Isla and Josh got together within the first few chapters, which is very unusual. I always want to read a book where the characters actually start seeing each other and we watch what happens. Normally books end a few pages after they finally kiss, and I’m like, I get it, books need conflict, but now what? I just say goodbye to these two I’ve been rooting for? So this was a very interesting premise already. The conflict would come after they became a couple.
And by the end… I was in love! This is the only book I can think of since the HEARTBREAKING Let’s Take The Long Way Home (a stunning memoir by Gail Caldwell about her best friend- it’s my favorite book of all time) that actually made me cry.
And it’s probably the only book that’s ever made me cry HAPPY TEARS!
Yes, I was so invested in their love story that I cried when they got together (don’t worry- that’s not a spoiler). I mean, come on. The author really took me there!
I had one book left in the series. The second one, Lola and the Boy Next Door.
The one I ordered off Amazon was in rough shape, but it cost too much to send back. I’d read such discouraging things about the main character. There were library stickers on the binding I couldn’t get off. And the people on Goodreads didn’t recommend this one so unanimously. Lola wasn’t nearly as likable as Isla or Anna, and what were we doing away from Paris? Here’s the official description:
Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
It took a few days, but then I was reading Lola and the Boy Next Door- crappy copy and all. And of course I loved this one, too. Stephanie Perkins writes such unique, interesting characters with strong voices. It must have been tough to follow up Anna, but Lola is pretty great. I think if this book wasn’t a companion to the others, I wouldn’t have liked it as much. But as another story in this world, I was happy with it.
Here are my ratings for this series.
Anna and the French Kiss:
5/5. Must read, and must read again. The character of Anna is wonderful.
Lola and the Boy Next Door:
4/5. Great book, fun summer read. Good romance and payoff.
Isla and the Happily Ever After:
5/5. Amazing story that sticks with you. I love Josh and Isla’s story.
Have you read this book series? Let me know if you have! I’m also looking to read more books like this- ones that inspire me and make me happy.