What did I like about this book? The cover. It’s very aesthetically pleasing. What did I not like about this book? Literally everything else.
I went into this book with high expectations because it’s rated so highly on Goodreads and in the book blogging community, but I was so FRUSTRATED with it. I had to will myself to finish even though I was putting it down every five minutes because I just couldn’t stand everything that was happening.
Spoiler-free Summary: Anna Oliphant is spending her senior year at the School of America in Paris. While this may be a dream come true for some, this is a total nightmare to Anna because she is forced to leave behind her best friend, the boy she fancies, and the comfort of the United States. In Paris, she meets Étienne St. Clair who is seemingly perfect in all regards except that he has a serious girlfriend. The rest of the book follows Anna in her journey to find love in the City of Love.
The main reason I didn’t like this book is that I found it to be very problematic. It essentially sends the message that emotionally cheating (but cheating nonetheless) is acceptable. It puts down the other female characters and borderline slut shames for the sake of bettering the protagonist when she, herself, is extremely hypocritical. There’s also a lot of unnecessary girl-on-girl hate simply to make Étienne seem more desirable and unattainable.
Another reason is that I didn’t really enjoy this book is because I’m not a fan of Stephanie Perkin’s writing. The book reads like a poorly written fanfiction. There wasn’t much foreshadowing or character development, and the end of the book didn’t feel properly resolved either.
Overall, I would rate this book 1 star. ⭐ Maybe 2 because of the nice cover. ⭐⭐ I really wanted to like this book. I really wanted to feel all fluffy inside after reading this, but I couldn’t. I truly wish Stephanie Perkins could have developed the relationship in a healthier manner and showcased the beauty of Paris in a better light.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Anna suffers from the biggest first world problem ever. Granted, I would probably be freaking out about moving to another country too if I were in her position. BUT she continues to be a brat and refuses to make the best of her situation. She complains immensely about how Paris is nothing like America. Then, she starts to hate how she’s so obviously American that she “pretends” to be Canadian.
I can’t stand how Anna is so out of touch with reality. She’s incredibly ignorant. “The only French word I know is oui, which means ‘yes’, and only recently did I learn it’s spelled o-u-i, and not w-e-e.” Seriously? That would literally be like me saying “Oh man, I didn’t know yes in Spanish is spelled si. By golly, I thought it was ci or see.” There’s also this one scene where she’s eating a panini and thinks its the best invention in the world. Anna…there are paninis in the US. And um St. Clair? Paninis were invented in Italy.
This girl’s dream is to be the nation’s greatest female film critic, yet she’s surprised to find that there are cinemas in Paris. *facepalm* Then, she refuses to watch anything but American films because “her cinematic tastes are too sophisticated” for anything but American films. You can’t become a world-class film critic if you never expose yourself to other cultures’ films, especially the birthplace of film, itself.
Anna also fails to apply basic common sense to daily life. She has zero survival skills. I swear if she were in the Hunger Games she’d be the first to go. She literally avoids ordering food in the cafeteria for a week because she’s afraid to order in French. YOU GO TO AN AMERICAN SCHOOL. THEY KNOW ENGLISH. These workers aren’t out to get you. I’m 100% sure if you pointed at something they would understand and help you. *facepalm (again)*
This girl is also extremely hypocritical. After falling in love with the first guy she meets, she becomes obsessive and jealous of any other girl who takes a liking to him as well. She judges Amanda and Meredith for fawning over St. Clair when she is literally doing the exact same thing. It’s honestly super toxic how Anna and Meredith’s friendship is ruined because of a guy. Meredith is Anna’s first friend in Paris, yet she completely disregards their friendship for some guy WHO ALREADY HAS A GIRLFRIEND. 😤
When she returns home for winter break, she finds out that her best friend Bridget is dating Toph. Anna gets all pissed off and butthurt about it that she essentially ghosts Bridget. First of all, Anna, you were never dating Toph. Even though you kissed once, he does not belong to you. You both barely interacted for months, so it’s ridiculous to assume that he would wait for you. Second, you have no right to be mad at Bridget because you did the exact same thing to Meredith.
Étienne St Clair is equally as frustrating. This boy is leading multiple girls on. There are soooo many Goodreads reviews going “OMG St. Claire is so hot! I’m in love!! #MarryMe #MrsStClair” AND I GENUINELY JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND. What is so attractive about a guy who plays with a girl’s feelings? We’re supposed to feel bad for him because he doesn’t want to be alone, but as Anna says in the book, he was never alone. I also think it’s stupid how every female alive is in love with him. It’s just not realistic. The only good thing about his character is that I found a Goodreads review that called him “Mr. My Name Is So French It’s Borderline Racist Étienne St. Clair” which made me LOL harder than any scene in this book.
Since we’re reading from Anna’s POV, we’re inclined to hate Ellie, Étienne’s girlfriend, but realistically, Ellie has done nothing wrong. She’s nice to Anna when they are first introduced, yet all Anna sees is an obstacle standing in her way. She’s simply the villain because she’s dating the guy the protagonist desires. As a result, every single one of her actions is depicted as absolutely horrid. For example, Ellie dressed provocatively as a nurse for Halloween, and Anna immediately mentally shames her for dressing slutty. Excuse me but that does not justify any of your actions with Étienne.
I think what makes me most upset is that Anna and Étienne know that what they are doing is wrong, yet they continue along in their merry way. They’re holding hands. They’re going on dates. They change in front of each other. They grind on the dance floor. They even sleep in the same bad. At one point, Anna wonders to herself who she can talk to about Étienne, and she realizes that she can’t tell anyone because they’d react badly. That should’ve been a major red flag moment for her to realize that what she is doing is wrong.
She literally spends every second of the day thinking about Étienne. No wonder she’s doing horribly in school. (The inner ESTJ in me is livid about her study habits or lack of study habits.) All of her actions revolve around how Étienne will react. For example, she only dates Dave because she wants Étienne to be jealous.
Amanda, our stereotypical mean girl, is depicted as such a b***. BUT a part of me is more frustrated with how she was written than her actual character. Don’t get me wrong she’s a horrible girl, but that’s because Stephanie Perkins wrote her as such a one-dimensional character (like every other character). We know nothing about her except that she’s a biatchy slut who bullies Anna because of her relationship with St. Clair. She throws around insults like “bulimic” and “dyke” which is so infuriating. She’s essentially written to be Anna’s character foil–someone so terrible that Anna looks like an angel in comparison and all of Anna’s faults can be disregarded because it’s not as bad as Amanda’s.
The ending of this book was just unsatisfying. Anna and Étienne end up together, and it’s supposed to be this beautiful happily ever after…except nothing is resolved. Anna never apologizes to Meredith, never apologizes to Ellie, never reconciles with Bridget (Yes, she writes an apology letter but what next?). The side characters are completely ignored. There’s no lesson learned. We’re left with the message that Anna and Étienne’s actions (cheating on your significant other) are acceptable–in fact, that’s how you can get your happily ever after.
Obviously, my views on this book are pretty polarized, but I’m interested to know what you think. If you read the book, did you like it? If you wrote a review on the book, leave it in the comments! I’d love to read it. 😍 I understand that my views may not be the same as yours, and that’s okay. I may not agree with it, but I still respect your opinion. In the same way, I hope you can respect mine. 💕 Thanks for bearing with this long rant/discussion!
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