I’m not going to lie – when I asked for recommendations for something fun to read on the eight hour plane ride to and from Europe that I took a few weeks ago, I was a little skeptical when Anastasia suggested Anna and the French Kiss. Not because I doubted her (on the contrary, she has excellent taste in books and you should always listen to her when she tells you to read something), but… ugh. Could there be a more generic YA romance title than Anna and the French Kiss? So when I tell you that you need to read this book and its companion, Lola and the Boy Next Door, you are just going to have to look past the titles and trust me.
(And yes, I finish Anna and then downloaded Lola onto my Kindle at my friend’s house in Ireland for the plane ride back because I needed more. Don’t judge.)
Basically, these two books are exactly what I want in a fun, YA romance – they’re smart and funny, with just enough heartache to make you root for the characters and just enough romance to be sweet without being saccharine. I’m glad I read them both before writing this post because one of the things that impressed me was how wonderfully different Anna and Lola are, and how author Stephanie Perkins captured both of their voices so perfectly. Each character in both stories felt well-rounded. One of my big complaints in many YA novels is that characters are completely defined by one aspect of their lives. Both novels are full of such quirky characters that this would have been an easy trap to fall into, but Perkins avoided it well. Yes, Anna is a neat freak and a movie buff, but she’s doesn’t have to relate everything back to cleaning or quotes from Casablanca. Likewise, one of the central struggles for Lola is trying to figure out how to remain true to her flair for dressing in dramatic costumes without letting this one aspect of her personality define her. Perkins is great at letting these personality traits complement the characters without overshadowing them, which makes for two protagonists that are much more layered than your typical YA romance heroine (with two main boys who are both dreamy enough and interesting enough to deserve their affections).
Which brings us to a second refreshing point, which is that each of the characters in the books have struggles outside of whatever romantic entanglement the find themselves in at the moment, and even their struggles within their love lives are complex and interesting. Perkins does a fantastic job of exploring all different kinds of relationships within these novels, not just those between the protagonists and the objects of their affections. The friendships and family dynamics are treated with equal respect and equal screen time, and it makes for a much richer read. Plus, all the characters (not just the main ones) are all just interesting, and unique, and a little bit quirky. I mean, Anna’s dad is a dead-on parody of Nicholas Sparks (and you know how we love to snark on Sparks around here, so I’m pretty convinced Perkins should join our author BFF club). Lola’s adorably nerdy crush Cricket’s sister is a competitive figure skater, and their whole family descended from Alexander Graham Bell. One of Lola’s dads owns his own pie shop. PIE SHOP. That must be the best job EVER, surrounded all day by delicious pie. I dream of that job…
Ahem. Anyway. The point is, even the supporting cast here is interesting and fun to read about. (Mmm… pie.)
So if you are looking for a fun read, I highly recommend picking up both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Great, fun reads that are the perfect companion for a lazy summer afternoon, an hour long lunch break escape from work, or (if you’re like me) an eight hour plane ride. I’ll be over here, anxiously awaiting the third companion novel, Ilsa and the Happily Ever After, which is due out in 2013.