One of my friends once said that there should be a long compound German word meaning “nostalgia for a past that never was”. I wish that word existed because that’s exactly what this book makes me feel. I most certainly never went to boarding school in Paris only to fall madly in love, but this book makes me wish I were back in high school. Certainly not my high school though, Anna’s.
I’ve read Anna and the French Kiss twice now and the uncomfortable moments (and yes, there are many) still make me squirm, the drunken confrontations still make me simultaneously wince and cheer and the incredibly well-written moments of tension between the main characters as they are falling for each other still make me wish for that tingly goosebumpy feeling of first love again.
Great for: Teen romance plus ideal location is a big win.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Well, yes, yes, there is. The sex all occurs off screen, and our main character is very much a self-proclaimed virgin who is not ready for that, but we are aware that other characters have sex. There is no specific nudity other than that involved in changing clothes. There are rather descriptive passages about kissing, using tongue while kissing, pressing together while kissing and dirty dancing. Some groping is mentioned. They read Like Water for Chocolate in English class and relate that it has LOTS of sex in it, including how a man and woman “do it” on a horse? I haven’t read Like Water for Chocolate, so I have no clue if I’m relating that properly. The dorm director keeps condoms outside his door. Anna mentions that her brother was either an accident or a last ditch attempt to save a failing marriage. There’s some lewd hamming it up around Victor Noir’s Monument. One man (adult, not teen) has mistresses. A friend from back in the US mentions pregnant teens at the high school.
Profanity– “dick,””suck,” “frigging,” “ass” and “arse,” “asshole,” the finger is given both American and UK V-shaped versions, “Christ,” “shiz” and “shite,” “balls,” not used the sports equipment sense. “jerkwad,” “crap,” “God,” “screw it,” “hell,” “sod,” “wanker,” “darn,” “tit,” “bastard,” “fuck/fucking” more than once “bugger,””bloody,” “git,” “douchebag,” “motherhumping,” “ass clown,” “bitch,” “slutbag,” and “dyke” absolutely used in a negative way.
Death, Violence and Gore – A main character has a parent with cancer. Anna’s father has made his fortune writing about people who “Fall in Love and then contract Life-Threatening Diseases and Die.” Anna worries about her brother if she goes away to school, that he’ll be kidnapped by a creepy man or eat something he’s allergic to and possibly die. A threat to gauge a boy’s eyes out with a figurine. Evidently there are occasional fistfights over washing machines. In retelling a book, St. Clair explains how Rasputin was killed, for those of you unfamiliar, it involved cyanide, gunshots, beating and throwing him in the river. He also overshares about Rasputin’s cremation. A girl fantasizes about how she would pull another girls hair and gauge out her eyes were they ever in a catfight. A girl shoves another girl, a boy punches another boy.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Anna says she knows people in France drink a lot of wine and smoke a lot of cigarettes. A boy makes a pyramid of beer bottles. Sixteen year olds can drink wine and beer but you have to be eighteen to drink hard alcohol. A boy was expelled for having coke in his backpack. Some dorm residents drunk dance in the stairwell. Many of the many characters are drunk at one point or another, at least two are drunk to the point of vomiting.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.