Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
It's hard to imagine two more different books back-to-back.
It's such a fantasy, right? For any teenager in the midst of their humdrum life, to think "if only I were in a boarding school in Paris, things would be totally different." Here's where the rubber of that fantasy meets the road.
Anna is shipped off to spend her senior year in a Parisian boarding school, but she is not happy. She's mad that her father didn't ask her, and she's worried about fitting in and being lonely, etc. Enter handsome Etienne, who is charming and fun and takes a special interest in Anna. She falls in with his friends and find herself branching out a little. Everything is rosy, except for the fact that Etienne has a serious girlfriend.
As you can probably imagine, things get complicated from here.
I won't spoil it.
Anna and the French Kiss is light and fun, a sweet romance. Yes, some serious things happen, but it's not dark or depressing. It's like the book equivalent of the love child of Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen. Also, you should know now that Etienne will charm your pants off. He's sweet and complicated, sometimes smart and serious, but also fun and funny. Not to mention, he speaks with a British accent.
This book is distinct in that the stereotypical high schoolers (dumb jock, bitchy mean girl, loyal ethnic friend) are turned on their head a little because it's, well, PARIS for goodness sakes!
Perkins relishes in the city, and takes us to some of the big touristy sites, but we also have a peek into delicate small moments in a theater or a bake shop. The kind of wonderment that pops up everywhere when you're in a completely different culture.
The city makes a nice contrast to the high school drama. I mean, here is a girl worrying about whether that guy she likes really likes her, but in one of the worlds most incredible cities!
It's interesting because, while the situations are dripping with gorgeous settings, it's still a bunch of teenagers trying to figure out themselves, their lives, and their loves. It took me back to that time, when all you cared about was whether HE would call, because please GOD if he DOESN'T call then you will JUST ABOUT die. But for Anna this is all going down in Paris. So maybe it speaks to the universality of those problems, and the universality of that time in life.
How I Live Now.
Whoa and My Goodness all rolled into one!
Daisy's dad is newly remarried. Her stepmother is not crazy about her, and the feeling is mutual. So Daisy is shipped off to live with her cousins in England (Osbert, Edmond, Isaac, and Piper). Let's just acknowledge these are the best cousin names ever. Her Aunt needs to leave for a few days for a conference; the kids are left alone. No big deal, right? Unless, of course, Britain is overtaken by an Army in a matter of weeks and the kids are left to fend for themselves.
This is not what I thought I was getting into when I picked up this book.
But it was oh, so, good. The story is fantastic-- it's riveting. You see everything from Daisy's perspective, so you really have the level of information about a major war that you might expect from a 15 year old with no parents around. Which is to say, not a lot. It's such a clever way to tell the story-- you want to know more, and then you don't. You waver -- is it serious?, is it a war?, or is it just a terrorist attack? And then you find out more. And it's not good.
Daisy's voice is stellar. Dripping from the pages. She and her cousins have their own kooky issues... which as a good reviewer I can't delve into. All I can say is: read it. You won't regret it.
If you're counting that makes my read-a-thon number jump to 9!!
Up next, my tenth book for December: Tomorrow When the War Began