Growing up, I had glasses and snot running down my nose. I was not the most popular girl in class. I was down there, at the bottom of the popularity ladder, with Zohara (who had the misfortune of being overweight), Oshrit (overweight and tall), and Oshrat (spectacled with curly hair).
As a young girl, I did not understand that Zohara, Oshrat, Oshrit and I could become friends and be popular to each other. I am ashamed to say that I did not like them very much. I had one best friend with whom I am grateful to be friends to this day.
And I had books. I read eight books a week, sometimes more. I devoured anything resembling a book, including Ma’ayan Encyclopedia which had stories of great discoveries and story versions of Shakespeare’s plays. I read walking to school and while doing homework (you put your notebook on top of the desk and Ivanhoe in a partially opened drawer just beneath so you can slam it shut quickly in case your mother comes into the room).
Today my social life is better than when I was a kid. I have less need to run away to books, but I still absolutely love it when I find a book so engrossing that for a while I forget I have a life. This happened yesterday while reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Young love, romance, Paris, kissing in the park while rolling on the grass — what can be better than that?
The novel is extremely well-written, but best of all: Anna thinks intelligent thoughts! I could understand why she makes her decisions. More than that: I knew her decisions were made out of deep compassion and love. Ms. Perkins allows Anna to find the conflict, simply and clearly, within herself: “Do we talk about it? Or do I act like it never happened?” Anna asks herself after St. Clair tells her he likes her as more than a friend. “He needs friendship right now, not relationship drama. Which is why it’s really crappy that it’s become a lot harder to kid myself that St. Clair’s attention hasn’t been as flattering–or as welcome–as it has.”
Anna welcomes life with an open heart. When she is afraid or confused, she admits it. She knows when she is in love, and she loves enough to be there for St. Clair without demanding anything in return — true unconditional love. Loving him, however, doesn’t mean she won’t tell him off if she thinks he is taking advantage of her.
I loved this novel. I was sad when I finished it, and it is hard to say goodbye. But the great thing about novels is that I can always read Anna and the French Kiss again. A good book, like good wine, never grows old, and this book is one of the best antidotes to a bad day I have read in a long time.