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Interview + Review: Stephanie Perkins, author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS

Here at YA Highway, we love love LOVE travel-themed young adult books, and young adult books set abroad. So I was super excited to borrow an ARC of Anna and the French Kiss (which comes out Dec. 2nd -- TODAY!!) for review through the Bookanistas.

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. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

Oh my goodness, I adored this book. I carried Anna and the French Kiss all over the house with me, and read it with a massive, dorky grin on my face -- except for the parts where it broke my heart. Not many books make me laugh out loud for real, but Anna did. Numerous times. That girl cracked me up. Lightning-quick love stories are a common complaint about YA, but Anna and Etienne's romance progresses gradually and believably. You're bouncing for them to get together, even as you understand (and want to PUNCH!) what keeps them apart.

ANNA struck me on an even deeper level, too. The first time I traveled to Europe, I was Anna's age, and I found myself looking back at that time wistfully. You will long to have an experience abroad like Anna's. This book will send anyone who reads it reaching for student exchange program pamphlets and discount airfare websites.

I only have one issue with the book, and it has nothing to do with the novel itself. The cover and title are adorable, but I feel like they suggest a fluffier book than ANNA really is. Sure, there's light all over the place, and some of the funniest bits I've read in any young adult novel. But it's also rich and deep and emotional. You'll definitely find escape inside its pages, but it'll stick with you, like your favorite travel memories. After ANNA, I will enthusiastically chase down anything Stephanie Perkins ever writes.

Now, Stephanie Perkins -- girl of the brilliant hair -- joins us for an interview!

What were the challenges of setting your book in another country?

The challenges were huge. It was never my intention to set a book in France, so when I had the idea, I was terrified. I'm an Anglophile, and France made me nervous. I’d never studied the language, and there are so many stereotypes that immediately spring to mind—the French are beautiful, they’re better dressed, they have better food, they’re rude, they hate Americans. Intimidating, right? I hadn’t nursed Parisian fantasies since I was a little girl. I was scared that I’d get everything wrong. That I would misrepresent the French, that I would offend them, and that I’d reinforce the idea of the Stupid American all at once.

Naturally, I was wrong about all of this. (Though it's true they're better groomed, and their cuisine is most certainly tastier!)

I researched ANNA over the course of two years—books, film, music, cuisine, language classes . . . oh my word, it never ended. But the novel turned into sort of a love letter to the city! And I've since added Francophile to my list of "-philes."

What's your favorite scene in ANNA? What scene was the hardest to write?

There were many scenes that were a joy to write. I was fortunate with this novel. (Not so much with my second novel, har har.) My favorite was probably a kissing scene, because I got to *live* it! The hardest bit was the day I had to research something awful that happens during the book. I don't want to spoil it, but for anyone who has already read ANNA, it's the medical issue. The information I needed was the absolute last thing I researched, and I ripped it off like a Band-Aid in one horrible, sad day.

What parts of ANNA are based on real life?

Everything and nothing. I've never been to boarding school, I've never fallen in (real) love with multicultural boy, and my family situation is very different from Anna's, but every character and every scene (even the yuckier ones) have some aspect of myself in them. In other words, there were so many variables that were NOT me, that I created small places and situations that I could relate to everywhere else, so as to make the story believable, to ground it in some kind of reality that I could grasp onto.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next book, Lola and the Boy Next Door?

Ooo, it's still a secret! All I can say right now is that it's a companion novel to ANNA, which means that though it has some character overlap, the story is firmly Lola's and can be read on its own. It takes place in America, and it will be released next fall. I recently sold the third and final companion, ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER (2012), which wraps things back up in Paris. Oh! And I can assure my readers that LOLA and ISLA are also swoony romantic comedies!

What's your favorite travel memory?

Well, ANNA was written because I'd had a dream in which I saw a beautiful boy with a French name and an English accent sitting on the steps of the Panthéon. I knew that I was deeply in love with him. So when I stayed in Paris this last January, every time I passed by the Panthéon, I got very emotional. My entire life changed because of that building. Every time I passed ANY place that was in my novel, I felt on the verge of tears. It was surreal. Magical. The only thing I can compare it to is if C.S. Lewis had a chance to visit Narnia.

Thanks so much, Stephanie!
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. Anna & the French Kiss swept me off my feet. Stephanie Perkins is INSANELY talented. i want to read everything she ever writes.

    i'm not even exaggerating.
    that's how embarrassing this little swoon comment truly is.

    i'm going to buy a bajillion copies.



  2. Hi :)
    Thank you for the great interview with Stephanie. It was interesting to learn how much research went into Anna and that there are going to be two more books to look forward to.
    All the best,

  3. What a lovely interview! I'm adding Perkins' books to my to-read list now...

  4. I can't wait to get my hands on this one!

  5. thanks for the interview, stephanie! I hope you're having a fabulous book birthday.

  6. @YA Highway

    *whines* I already badly wanted to read this book, but now this feeling has intensified. I really, really want to read this novel! I'm also anxious to check out Perkins's next set of companion novels...


  7. I remember reading the blurb for this months ago, and mow I want to read it even more! Great review and interview.

  8. When Kirsten and Tahereh both fangirl over a book, it goes to the top of my TBR list, so I'll be picking this one up ASAP!

  9. Finally Etienne. I feel like I've been waiting all my life!


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Item Reviewed: Interview + Review: Stephanie Perkins, author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard