Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss #1)
So, one of the categories for the Popsugar Reading Challenge for 2017 is to listen to an audiobook. Originally I'd slated The Nightingale for this, since it's supposed to be a great audiobook. But then I figured that, given my attention span with listening to things, I'd better pick out something I'd actually read, so that when I inevitably tuned out, I could catch up without constantly having to rewind. So, because of that and library availability, I got Anna and the French Kiss on audiobook.
I liked Anna a lot less on audio than I did when I read it. Part of this is the narrator. I don't think it's really the narrator's fault, but she reads in this high, breathy voice that kind of made me want to punch Anna (not the narrator herself, let's be clear) in the face because she came off so much more brainless and immature and downright bitchy than she did in the actual book. I didn't agree with the inflections she used and felt that it gave a completely different feel to the entire story; if I'd listened to this originally, never in a million years would I have picked up the two companion books, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After.
But hearing the book did bring to light a few things that I think I glossed over the times that I read it. Like how there's a surprising amount of slut-shaming and homophobia in this book, and not all of it is from the antagonists; there's actually a good deal from Anna herself, which makes me flinch away from the book as a whole. There's an incident in which the stereotypical "bitchy" girl calls one of Anna's friends a dyke, and Anna gets into a fight with her. Anna is so offended that this term was used, not because it's a derogatory term, but because the friend isn't a lesbian, so how dare someone imply that she is? Later she backtracks some and tries to say that the insult doesn't make any sense, but her knee-jerk reaction is that, somehow, being a lesbian was the insult here, not the way in which it was referred to. She doesn't show this attitude toward a man who's implied to be gay at another point in the book; rather, this seems to be confined to lesbianism, which makes the whole thing so icky.
And then there's the slut-shaming. This is rampant from all directions. Someone spreads a rumor that Anna slept with the guy she was dating, which of course automatically makes her a slut. Anna views girls who date boys she likes as sluts, even if she never uses the term in relation to them--the implication is definitely there. Anna's friends say they don't believe that she slept with the guy, but it's also implied that if she had, they wouldn't be friends anymore. Because sleeping with your boyfriend obviously means you're a total slut. Yes, this is a book about high school students, but one would expect better behavior from our protagonists--both Anna and her friends.
There's also an uncomfortable amount of "friendzone" mentality in this, in which Anna thinks that, because she's close friends with St. Claire when he's having a hard time, he should totally break up with his girlfriend and be with her, even though she actually has no idea what his relationship with his girlfriend is right. Ultimately, of course, St. Claire is attracted to Anna in return, but that isn't my point. My point this that, just as girls are not machines you put friendship coins into until sex comes out, neither are boys, and this mentality isn't any healthier on a female main character than it would have been on a male one, though I think this book would be getting a lot more flack if it was St. Claire who had displayed this attitude and not Anna.
Anna was my second-favorite book in this trilogy, and despite the new flaws that I've seen it I think it retains that spot. It has inherent flaws, yes. But I am willing to give it some slack, because the story is so charming and the slow-building romance is so delicious, and it's a first book. Lola is my least favorite and Isla takes the top spot, though now I might have to re-read and re-evaluate those with a more studied eye, as well.
Originally I had rated this 5 stars; at this point, I'm knocking it down to somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, marking at 4 for Goodreads purposes.