My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It was a very easy and engaging read. I was really, really liking it (despite the fact that the lead character is beautiful and has two boys-who-a-lot-of-other-girls-like falling for her–which I know, I know, it’s a young adult book aimed for girls, the lead HAS to be pretty even if she doesn’t think she is and has to have a minimum of two boys liking her romantically) until I got to the ‘Etienne / St. Clair’ name switch. Now, I do understand why it was done. It just felt a bit too contrived.
They are not in a society where it is common to use last names for acquaintances and first names for friends (unlike say, how it is in another fictional boarding school–Hogwarts) or even honorifics in addition to the first name/last name rule (Japan). The characters, while studying in France, were all raised in America / are American and as such use either first or last names (or even nicknames), whichever’s cooler or more suitable.
So the switch in how St. Clair’s name is used to further denote that feeling of extra closeness when Anna already had it with him even without the name change just felt silly and contrived to me. Their arguments, whenever she switched using his names to hurt him, didn’t pack a punch like it should (although I do have to allow that this may be because I am used to reading Japanese or Korean relationships, which can utilize this move efficiently because the social constructs are there from the very beginning–nay, even before the characters came to be) and fell flat. And the last bit, where she uses a lame and filmsy excuse of about not calling him Etienne anymore when she had been doing so for practically half the book, when she was purposely using the name switch to hurt him–just UGH.
The other thing that bugged me was Meredith, who didn’t feel like a character at all but only an instrument. After making our lead character, Anna, feel welcome at a new place, Meredith is easily forgotten as Anna’s narratives focus on herself, St. Clair and Rashmi and Josh. So when A Mess happens that involves Meredith, Anna’s reaction in her defense felt too extreme (even counting the fact that she was in a bad place at the time) since I as the reader never really felt that she cared for Meredith as a person/friend at all, and that Anna’s reaction only served as a way to redeem Anna. Hell, even her apology to Meredith was 99% a conversation about how much St. Clair likes Anna.
Yes, it’s a Young Adult book–I don’t have to be so serious. But I can’t help it, when these are the first thoughts that came to mind while I was reading it. It’s not that I didn’t like this book either–I thought the Paris descriptions were good, reminding me of photos of Paris I’ve seen. Every time food was mentioned, I got hungry. I found it funny that Anna’s father’s novels closely resemble those of Nicholas Sparks’. I was rooting for St. Clair, even though he played it safe and kept his boat in so many rivers. I liked Anna, even though it was a bit daft for her to not look at the Neruda book after she said she KNEW she missed something. I’m not sure if that’s Anna’s fault or the writer not wanting to end things too soon, though. I liked Anna, St. Clair, Bridge, Sean, Rashmi, Isla and Josh as characters.
Bottom line: I did like it. It was a nice, fluff read, and if the two points above were improved, I would have loved it, even if I didn’t get anything new or find any passages worth underlining. It’s getting an ‘It’s OK’ rank on my Goodreads bookshelf because it’s not something I’ll pick up again.