Saturday, June 11, 2011
Pages: 372 (hardcover)
Published: December 2010 by Dutton
Recommended for: everyone on the planet who hasn't read it already
I know none of you book bloggers and bookish people have ever heard of this little-known book before, have you? Well, here's my take on it, anyway, because I simply couldn't resist. ;)
When Anna Oliphant's newly-filthy-stinking-rich father, who made a fortune penning the world's most heartbreakingly pointless romance novels, announces that he's sending her to the American Academy of Paris for her senior year of high school, Anna could not be less thrilled. She's an Atlanta girl, a Southern belle sans the accent, and can't stand the thought of being ripped away from her best friend and her job at the local theaters-- not to mention the guy she's been crushing on for forever. But it's Daddy's orders, so off to Paris Anna goes, an American girl who speaks hardly a word of French and has not yet realized that French fries are not even, in fact, French. (Personally, I felt betrayed when I found that out, but they're technically Belgium fries.)
At the American School, Anna falls in with a ragtag group of international best friends-- including the charismatic and devastating Étienne St Clair, who stakes his claims in being French, English, and American. Anna feels an instant connection with St Clair as she struggles to adjust to her new life in Paris, but even as she begins to fall in love with him, she cannot ignore the fact that St Clair has a serious girlfriend already. With both of them are determined to remain best friends, Anna's school year turns out to be a series of hilarious antics and time spent with St Clair as much as one of deep-felt sadness and longing. But Paris has a reputation as the City of Lights and Romance, and it's doubtful that Anna and St Clair can possibly fail to realize a love as strong and sweet as theirs.
One of the coolest things about this book, for me, was that I've actually visited the American Academy of Paris when I saw a play there, which featured one of my cousins, two summers ago. I remember thinking that my small-town high school was dull and homogeneous in comparison, and it was fun to read about Anna's adventures in the boarding school. The setting of Paris is parfait for a love story such as this, and I loved Anna and her friend's various excursions through the city and its lovely parks, as well as the Cemetery (which has to be the most enormous cemetery in the world-- I'll never forget seeing it roll by the train into the city). Anna is a fantastic heroine, genuine and emotional without being one of those whiny girls I loathe so much in contemporary. I have noticed that contemp seems to be moving faraway from those whiny girls, actually, so yay for that! St Clair ties with Virgil (see my review of Revolution, another book set in Paris, actually) for the Favorite Guy Character of 2011 Award. I loved how he had flaws, like chewing his thumb, and I loved how he was shorter than Anna and had a drawing of himself as Napoleon above his headboard, and I especially love how he wanted to become a history professor. (Me, too!) He and Anna were perfect for each other-- that much was obvious from their first meeting.
All in all, this is the kind of book best read while quietly sipping coffee in a cafe, or else relaxing on the beach as you chug down a few pina coladas. I hope everyone who hasn't already experienced this book will find some time to enjoy it this summer.
Overall Rating: 5/5 all around