Happy summer and happy annual revamp of Booking Awesome! Today I’m coming to you with the fact that I’ve read 2 YA romance novels in 2 days. It may sound like no large feat, but, boy, did my heart take a beating because of them. The novels in question? Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, both by Stephanie Perkins.
I’ll start by saying that I heard about these books recently because of people like Kristina Horner (italktosnakes on YouTube) and other BookTubers and they had great things to say, but I was in a bit of an anti-romance novel state at the time I heard about them. There’s just something about YA romance that gets me a bit depressed, and it’s strange because I’m 21 and past that age of high school first loves (but really, are we ever past that stage? –boos for corny comment–). But, I must say, there’s something different about the way Stephanie Perkins writes her characters and their stories because the only depression I felt was after finishing the books. Dang it, Perkins, write more books so I can live on and on in your wonderful YA romance world of fabulous men and wonderful ladies! I’m in deep, if you can’t tell.
I remember picking up Anna in my local BAM and eyeing the pink cover with the Eiffel Tower looming in the background. I also remember thinking: Hey, Paris! Super romantic city, something about French kisses in the title, and pink is the color of love. This could be totally cheesy. Or, past me, it could be totally enthralling. I decided to buy both Anna and Lola for my Kindle because they were cheaper, but I feel like I’ll end up buying them in print just because of how much I loved them both.
Now, on to my analysis review deal.
No matter how much I adore these books, I knew they’re not for everyone. There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief you need to have before entering their worlds; while they do take place in modern-day Paris/San Francisco, the relationships that take place almost seem otherworldly. Brief plot summary of each: Anna goes to a boarding school in Paris and meets this hot British-accent American who treats her like a queen pretty much. Lola goes to high school in San Francisco and her first crush returns to his old home right next door and he treats her like a queen pretty much. See what the issue is here?
I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be treated like queens, but that certainly isn’t always the case in every relationship. I’m also not saying that Perkins should have written these true-to-life (I mean, it is fiction), but it’s something to consider when you’re wondering if you want to read them or not. I enjoy gushy adorable things and literally squealed when I read both of these novels, but I know a lot of people who hate that stuff. I’ll just suffice it to say that, if you think it’s something you’d like, go for it. If you think you’re going to hate it, don’t buy it. Get it? Got it? Good.
Anna might be my favorite book out of the two so far (and there is a third, Isla and the Happily Ever After that came out last year I think), but it’s not really because of Anna’s character. Anna herself is pretty plain and vanilla for a character, but her relationships with Etienne and her friends make her more interesting. Alone, she’s pretty bland. Etienne St. Clair is charming, sweet, thoughtful, and attractive to boot. The way Perkins writes him makes him unbelievably real. I remember when I first read his description I rolled my eyes. Of course he’s British, I thought, of course he’s British and of course she’s in Paris and white girl problem white girl problem etc. If you read it and find yourself thinking the same things, trust me it gets better. Etienne is pretty much the man I thought I’d find on my study abroad trip to London. Turns out he was waiting in Paris this whole time and ran off with Anna Oliphant to San Francisco. Drat.
With Lola, the dynamic is completely changed. She’s still in high school, is a budding costume designer, and is completely and utterly eccentric. I loved her. She wore crazy outfits, didn’t give a crap about anything anyone had to say, and had this hipster band boyfriend, Max. He was pretty great until, well, he wasn’t. The love interest of Lola’s story is the one and only Cricket Bell, a darling eccentric weirdo who wears multiple bracelets and pinstriped pants and adores all of Lola’s quirks. He’s literally the boy next door you wish you had, one who built little machines for you and found a way to travel between your window and his. Lola’s main issue is that she loves Max, but her heart is set on Cricket. In my opinion, where’s the competition? The dude’s name is Cricket but goodness’ sake and he knows how to braid hair and make little trinkets. Plus, he’s friends with St. Clair. Swoooon.
My only issue with these two novels is that I could predict where they were going. While the way Perkins executed the books was unexpected and kept me on my toes, the basic plotlines were pretty obvious to me. Though, to her credit and to my own, I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately (mainly romance despite my anti-romance kick earlier this year), and the way they play out are generally the same. I find that, with YA romance, the characters make the story more than the plot. Going into the stories, you know that the main couple will be introduced in the first 10 pages, they will hit it off almost immediately in some way (positive or negative), and there will be obstacles but they’ll end up together in the end. The tension will lead up to this explosive kiss at the end and everything will be awesome until you turn the last page. Then? Ultimate book hangover.
The great thing about these three books from Perkins (Anna, Lola, & Isla) is that the book hangover holds you over into the next book. For example, Lola works at a movie theater that Anna and St. Clair also work at, so you get to see their relationship progress from the first book without the book being about them specifically. The same with what I read of Isla; she’s mentioned in Anna as a member of the junior class at the Parisian boarding school, and that she likes Josh, a member of Anna’s friend group. The way all of these characters are intertwined satisfied my desire to know what happened to Anna and St. Clair, and only time will tell if the whole Lola and Cricket relationship has progressed through Isla’s story (though, admittedly, they live in San Fran while Isla and Josh are in Manhattan/Paris). No spoilers, please!
So, in short, this review wasn’t actually a review, it was a love letter to Perkins’ love stories. I guess, though, it’s also a plea for you to read the books as well so we can talk about them! As we speak I’m reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, so Isla will have to be put on hold, but once I read it I’ll be sure to report back.
Until next time, DFTBA!