Worth It Wednesdays: “Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

anna and the french kissTitle: Anna and the French Kiss

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Goodreads Description: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Why it’s worth it: When the blogosphere first blew up with this book, I shied away automatically. I tend to dislike YA contemporary romance, and this just sounded … trite. Like I’d read it a million times before. But more and more of my bloggy friends and people I liked around the internet kept saying I THOUGHT THAT BUT IT’S GOOD and I went … alright?

TURNS OUT THAT THEY WERE ALL CORRECT.

Anna is the kind of book that stays with you long after the pages have shut. It’s the kind of book that I re-read when I’m feeling the worst in my life. Does the description make it sound like dozens of other things? Yes. Is the plot similar in that way? Yes.

The thing about it, though, is the way that Perkins writes. There is no doubt in my mind about the reality of this story. The characters are REAL. Their issues are REAL. And there is none of this “main character perfection” or “love interest perfection” thing that happens sometimes in similar novels. Anna and St. Clair are messed up. They mess up over the course of the book. They fall apart and them come back together, TOGETHER.

Also, Perkins doesn’t let the book just be about the romance. There is a lot of real back and forth about friendships, and how crushes within friend groups can lead to grief and heartache. Yet, again, the friendships fall apart and come back together with a reality that is staggering. There isn’t a single character–within the main romance or not–that doesn’t steal your heart.

Maybe I’m biased. Anna did get me through one of the toughest periods of my life. But I thoroughly believe that a lot of it is also due to the fact that Perkins is just a damn good author. There are two companion books to Anna, and both are really good as well. Okay, I was only okay with Lola and The Boy Next Door but Isla and The Happily Ever After came back and stole my heart all over again. So yeah. Just read them.

Read it if you’re looking for: YA contemporary romance that won’t make you want to vomit, lack of a real love triangle, books about friendship, books about Paris, books about family, swoon worthy romance, books that will stay with you.

Perusing Poetics: Say Nothing, See Nothing

I promise that this week’s post will be an actual intellectual piece of reading material. I promise. Read on and see.

This week we read two really awesome things, and I had so many things to say about both of them. First we read excerpts from Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop by Adam Bradley, and then we read an essay by Jerome Rothenberg from The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy. My initial reaction was, “Oh yeah totally doing something from Bradley because the only thing that Rothenberg’s got going is A REALLY ANNOYING USE OF THE AMPERSAND AGAIN AND AGAIN” but actually … I was wrong.

If you’re into Bradley’s book, I do highly recommend it. But my rant about persona and Truth and all that jazz got sidelined when Rothenberg gave me this little quote:

“The hypothesis would be: I see through language. And its corollary: without language, I am blind” (13).

Now, the quote that I instantly connected to before this one was “‘a new language must be found’ … not only for the sake of speaking but of seeing, knowing” and I was like “YEAH THAT SOUNDS AWESOME” (12). Then the one in block quotes came around a few sentences later and then I was like, “Hang on. What?”

At first, I took a step back and said, “Uh, no.” Because what sense does seeing with language make outside of reading? (I should probably have explained that a lot of Rothenberg’s focus is on “‘wordless’ oral poetries” [14].) My immediate reaction is that when I see a red flower, it doesn’t matter if the person next to me can communicate our shared vision or not because we’re both looking at the same red flower. (Also, I am aware I am working under the assumption we are both in possession of our sight. That is not a slight against those with blindness but rather I simply relating my own thought process given my privileged of having my sight mostly intact.)

Now let me back up a little bit. You may or may not know that I was abroad last year. Though I lived in London, I traveled in Europe a lot. The favorite question for people to ask when I came back is which place I went was my favorite. I always hedged this question by replying that I loved everywhere I went, but I was just more comfortable in places where I could adequately communicate, like Ireland and Scotland. When I traveled to Paris, Barcelona and Italy, I always had at least one travel buddy who spoke the language we needed. It is this experience that I drew on to refine this “hypothesis and corollary” in my own mind.

See, when traveling to new country where you don’t speak the language, the inability to communicate does feel like a type of blindness and a sense of invisibility all at the same time. Especially on public transportation, you feel removed from reality in a sense. There is all this chatter happening around you, but you can’t understand a word of it. You can’t overhear a funny story someone is telling or engage with a shopkeeper about buying a silly souvenir. Sure, you can get by with pointing and playing charades, but it is the most physical feeling of living in an alternate reality that I have ever had.

This is especially potent when someone you’re traveling with DOES speak the language. They end up ordering for the group at dinner or getting directions or navigating the public transportation. This isn’t a bad thing; I’m forever thankful for my friends for this. I might have died from anxiety otherwise. But when someone else can jump into a dialogue before you can, the muzzling effect is deafening. Perhaps this is just me, being someone who is not accustomed to taking a backseat for extended periods of time–and really wanting to be in complete control of every situation–but that is the deepest truth I can admit about traveling in those countries.

Again, I don’t regret those travels. They were some of the most amazing experiences of my life. But this was also certainly a part of my experience. It just wasn’t something I connected with the act of seeing until Rothenberg said it. I think of the five senses as five separates. But the truth is, as with much of the human experience, nothing is separate. Everything we do or don’t do feeds into something else with simple cause and effect.

An Open Letter to 2014 (and that London wrap up you never got)

It’s been a crazy time since I last wrote, what with finals and coming home and such. Then there was family to see an holidays to celebrate and then, without taking a beat, this amazing year has less than 24 hours left to it. (And yes, this is going to be one of those sappy, life affirming posts. You’ve been warned.)

About time to do a wrap up post. However, I don’t think I could do one about London without talking about the events leading up to it anyways, so this works out rather well.

2013 was not a good year for me. It was a year that a lot of things ended. A lot of big things. The biggest one–the one that started me on this very slippery slope–was my choice and not one I would take back, but it still led to learning a lot of things I’d rather have never known about myself or some of the people around me. Oh well.

So enter 2014. Me swearing up and down that I was getting better. That I was healing. It just seemed like every time I got a bit of clarity, something would happen or been said and I’d swing back in the other direction. By the summer I was running in circles so hard and fast I had my best friends planning an intervention. I could see the rut I was in, but I didn’t know how to get out of it and I was just about ready to leave myself there.

It was exactly the right time to put myself on a plane and stick myself in the middle of legit foreign territory.

Honestly, the beginning of my study abroad wasn’t the greatest time of my life either. I made some pretty major choices that a smarter person wouldn’t have made, ones that wrecked me out again before I could even really get started. I got there in the middle of August, and by the middle of September I was convinced I’d already fucked up so majorly that there was no going back, that the rut had followed me, and that all the things I hated about myself were maybe things I should just accept and stop beating myself up about them.

It’s a good thing I’m so desperately stubborn.

I didn’t want to be stuck. Studying abroad is the greatest time to make that decision, because you literally aren’t allowed to be. I didn’t have the time to wallow in my own self-loathing, because there was always so much to do. More than that, I had ample opportunity to overcome major fears that I’d never really been able to confront before. I’m not going to spell out every little life lesson I learned, but the major one for me was the fear that I would never, ever been able to stand on my own–in anything. Studying abroad showed me how strong I could be without even trying.

So between London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Barcelona and my multi-city Italy adventure, there was the good, the bad and everything in between. There were a few people who made my life difficult, but there were also people who were practically just acquaintances when this all started who are now the kind of friends I’d walk through fire for and trust would do the same for me. Most importantly, there is this realization here, at the end of it all, that I don’t regret a single thing–especially the bad decisions that left me in a puddle of tears at the time. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to find the solid footing that I needed.

I actually ended up getting a tattoo a week after I got back from Paris because, even then, this journey meant so much to me that I needed to give myself a reminder. The word I got on my right wrist, Surprises, really doesn’t mean anything to anyone except for me, but that’s exactly the point. To me, it symbolizes the past two years and is a physical reminder for the next time things get bad (because they will, that’s life), things do get better. I threw in the towel on myself so many times but thanks to the support of the friends around me I kept going just enough to get to this moment where I can say, “I am stronger now.”

If 2013 was the year I broke, 2014 was the year I started building again. I know I’m hardly done yet, but at least this time I feel like I have a foundation that no one will be able to shatter as easily again–especially me. So thanks, 2014.

Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart

And all of Paris plays a part!

Yes, I know that I said I would be talking about art in my next post, but as it turns out I didn’t get around to that post and it’s better to do that in a few weeks anyways and GUYS I SPENT A WEEKEND IN PARIS AND THAT IS EXCITING.

The trip was through the school, which was fantastic, because1781864_10205559836419871_877643297077200481_n I do love my trips being subsidized. We traveled via Eurostar train to the Paris Gard du Nord station at way too early in the morning and popped out to beautiful Paris … where it was raining.

Performance art at the Louvre.

Performance art at the Louvre.

Undaunted, we commenced upon a big long walk that started at our hostel near the train station and wandered past the Notre Dame until it ended up at the Louvre. The Eiffel Tower was almost hidden in the fog, but that’s okay because we’ll see it much better later. I wasn’t really paying attention much on this walk, because it was raining and I’m like a drowning cat when that happens, but I was still pleasantly surprised by it all. I walked into Paris with absolutely no expectations.

We went back to the hostel and chilled for a while after that, because we had big plans for10609464_10205559854700328_1063314421491552861_n the night. On Fridays, the Louvre is open for free to people under 26 after about six at night until it closes and we were most certainly going to hit that up. Seeing the Mona Lisa was important of course, but honestly not that impressive. However…

The blur is me and that is the shade I was getting.

The blur is me and that is the shade I was getting.

Over the blog posts, I’ve mentioned that I am a fanatic about ancient Egyptian history. The Louvre has HUGE AND MULTIPLE SECTIONS of these kinds of artifacts. I ran through these flailing about like a moron, dragging my group past reliefs and statues and fawning over every single one. THEY HAD SOME OF THE MOST FAMOUS REMAINING ARTIFACTS OF AKHENATEN AND RAMESES II FOR GOD SAKE. Ahem. Anyways. I just about cried and I’m not ashamed in the slightest.

Despite being really tired, that night there was a full moon party in the bar beneath our hostel and a bunch of us attended that. Not going to say much about that (hi Mom!) but it was probably the most fun night out I’ve ever had.

10423833_10205559909181690_1545233039349298776_n…the aftermath not so much. I ended up sleeping in really late that morning, so I got a really late start. However, turns out you really can’t go wrong just wandering around Paris. We went back to the Notre Dame to take pictures while it wasn’t raining and then walked along the Seine for a while. It was a gorgeous if chilly day, but all that mattered to me was that I could get out my technology and record it all.

That night, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower and queued to go up to the tippy top. It1560494_10205559935022336_1878353214304840639_n was dark by the time we got up there, but totally worth it. I fall in love real hard for night time at high altitudes with the lights all down below, and so just one corner of the view from the Eiffel Tower was really worth it. If a bit cold.

10470606_10203353653384888_6349130638338917526_nWhen we came back down we wandered around a bit more to see the Tower do it’s hourly light show and see the Arc du Triumph. God, Paris is gorgeous at night. Then, back to the hostel for food and bed! No regrets ever where sleeping is concerned.

We didn’t really have a lot of time the next day, but Sam, Madison and I did explore a nearby market. We met the George Clooney of Salt (don’t ask), bought some super pretty earrings and then made our way back to the train station for the ride back to London.

Given that so many people had told me I would hate Paris, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t do as much as I could have, but I don’t regret that either. I feel like I did all the Paris-as-city things I really wanted to, and I don’t feel the need to go back. I can say I’ve done it and move on, and I’m happy with that. All in all, the weekend was absolutely fantastic. Anastasia didn’t lead me wrong.

560204_10205559940462472_6439303628887250231_n