Tag Archives: romance

Anna and the Drawn Out Romance

I finally got to the YA novel Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, which has been on my reading list for a little while.  I’m not always a fan of the chick lit romance, but this one had good reviews and a high recommendation from a writing group pal.  Anna is an American high school senior whose father unexpectedly ships her off to an American boarding school in Paris.  She’s a slightly neurotic, film-obsessed girl who is basically the classic fish out of water.  As the year goes on, Anna becomes closer to her new Paris-based friends, and, inevitably, develops a massive crush on a cute English-American-French boy at her school.  The book has some language, some drinking (hey, it’s legal in France!) and some sexual content, but it’s all pretty mild.  Anna and her friends are pretty tame for a bunch of eighteen year olds mostly on their own in Paris.

The book was a quick, light read.  I liked Anna’s voice a lot.  She has a pretty good internal monologue that goes from snappy to reflective without bogging down the pace of the story.  The romance is decidedly the center of the book.  There’s a lot of back and forth as Anna and her crush become friends, fight, become friends again, fight again, and almost get together but not quite more times than I can count.  It’s a bit drawn out from an adult perspective, and some of the friendship stuff is a little melodramatic.  However, looking back to my own teenage days, it’s all pretty realistic, though more neatly tied up in that way books have.  Partway in, as I realized what a straightforward romance this was, I wasn’t sure if I would end up liking it, but the voice was strong and in the end, I thought it was a fun read.

 As an aside, the set up reminded me of a few other, totally different, books.  Most notably, I thought of Madeleine L’Engle’s nearly forgotten boarding school romance And Both Were Young, which appears to have gotten a very recent re-release with a spiffy new cover. It’s a book from another era, so if Anna sounds too grown up, I can promise you Flip, L’Engle’s American heroine in a European boarding school who finds romance with a nearby boy and learns to ski, will seem quite tame.  For an even younger take with the same out of place American dragged to a European boarding school set up, there’s Sharon Creech’s lesser known Bloomability, which deals more with family issues and finding confidence, two themes Creech is well known for.

A Little Romance

I haven’t had it in me to delve into anything too deep lately, even as children’s books go.  Thanks to the advice of a certain Sharon Shinn loving book blog, I finally picked up a couple of titles by this YA fantasy author and I enjoyed them very much.  The first was Gateway and the second was General Winston’s Daughter.  They’re both books I think the fantasy and romance loving teenage girls out there, whether they come from reading Twilight or Tamora Pierce, would probably enjoy.  They’re both certainly romances, but rest assured, parents, they’re pretty tame.

I really liked Shinn’s writing style, which is descriptive and well done.  I also liked her imagined landscapes.  Gateway shows us an alternate universe just a step away from ours while General Winston’s Daughter depicts a world in a colonial struggle a bit like the scramble for Africa.  Both books feature an interracial romance, which I thought was a positive element in the world of children’s books and fantasy.  Both books deal with politics and oppression as the central character in each must learn to understand the world around them.  The interracial romance serves to highlight and explore those issues.

My only complaint is that, like so many girl YA books, the heroines of each story were surprisingly passive.  Events happen to them, rather than because of them.  Each book has its reasons, of course.  In Gateway, the main character has been thrown into an alternate universe.  In General Winston’s Daughter, the main character has lived a sheltered life.  This complaint was made about the books in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy.  It has been made about the megahit Twilight books.  Plotwise, there’s always a reason and sometimes, like with Katniss’s tragedy-struck life, it’s a plot element that’s there to explore deeper issues.  However, it’s one that sits slightly uneasy with me.  That’s not to detract from the other wonderful qualities of these books (well, we can detract from Twilight a little, can’t we?).  And there are many books that don’t fall into this pitfall, showing strong women who do take charge of their lives.  However, it’s one that’s beginning to wear on me as a reader.