Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and Stephanie Perkins

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in What I've Been Reading, Writing/Indie Life | 14 comments

This is more than a book review. This is a story of how I fell in love with a couple of books and the author behind them.

And this is a lesson in how much a writer learns simply from reading good books and then stalking the author in blogosphere and on Twitter.  (Not really, but kind of.)

You see, I’d seen the cover of Anna and the French Kiss numerous times. I’d come across it on blogs, in the library, and in book stores, and yet, for some reason, I kept passing it by. I have no idea why.

No, that’s not true. I know why. Kind of. I liked the cover and I loved the title, but I think I expected it to be too young of a Young Adult for me. I judged the story by its title and cover. I know that’s a terrible reason for passing by a book, except there are so many books out there begging to be read, sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to put off reading something, or worse, set it aside never to be picked up again.

That would have been a BIG mistake — HUGE — because I did pick up Anna and the French Kiss, and I. Loved. That. Book. After, I immediately grabbed Lola and the Boy Next Door. I loved it, too! So, ignore the reason I put off reading the book for now. We’re actually going to come back to that.

The reasons I loved both Anna and the French Kiss (Anna) and Lola and the Boy Next Door (Lola) are:

1. Characterization – Stephanie Perkins writes beautiful, colorful, and deep characters. They pull you into their lives and make you want to sing opera if it will help them reach their wildest dreams. I would read this beautiful love story again just to study why I loved Anna and Etienne St. Clair, and all of the other secondary characters so much.

2. Setting – Anna was set in Paris, France; Lola in San Francisco. San Francisco is my all-time favorite American city that I’ve visited. And Paris… Well, what can I say about the most romantic city in the world? Stephanie makes the reader feel like she’s walking in Paris right alongside her characters.

3. The writing – Stephanie Perkins’s writing is superb. She truly writes from all senses and drops you right into the story and into lives of her characters and all their tough decisions – the good, the bad, and the OH, NO, don’t do that!

After I read Stephanie’s books, the natural next step for a writer like myself was to discover more about her as a writer. I already followed her on Twitter, but I began stalking her blog and searching for the release date of her next book. That’s when I learned that all the stuff I loved about her writing is the result of a true love and passion for the craft. She cares deeply about each of her books. You can read about the release of her next book, Isla and the Happily Ever After here and you’ll see very quickly the depth of her love of words.

In that same post, Stephanie talks about her goal to tap into the adult romance market with Anna and Lola. This interests me. I want Stephanie and writers like her to succeed at this. There are some wonderful YA books out there that should blur the lines between Young Adult and Adult fiction. And Anna and Lola are two of them.

My concern comes when I think about why I skipped over these two books.

I attended a library discussion a couple of weeks ago (after I had read Anna and Lola) for “Adults reading Young Adult Literature.” And it was fascinating. A librarian and I got into a discussion about Anna and the French Kiss. She, too, had skipped over Anna at first, and was elated when she discovered Stephanie Perkins again. We both gave the books glowing recommendations to the other adult ladies in the room.

I wanted to write this post for two reasons.

#1 – I hope the adult romance readers (or YA readers who missed these two books like I did) reading my blog will think about these two books. They are so worth the read. Do yourself a favor in honor of Valentine’s Day and all things love – go buy these two books.

#2 – I’m wondering how to market books like these to adults. I’ve thought of obvious ways – tap into book clubs by attending or skyping or blog tours across adult romance blogs.

Word of mouth is always a fantastic way to spread good news, so this is me doing my part.

But I can’t help but wonder if there are some YA books out there that would benefit from different packaging in order to reach a different market. But the other part of me who has already read the books, now loves the covers and can’t believe I passed by them for any reason.

Maybe I’m just over-analyzing the whole thing.

And I promise, I’m not criticizing these books AT ALL. I loved them, and I want to seem them succeed even more.

So, if you have marketing ideas for books like this, let’s hear it in the comments. Or, have you read books lately that surprised you? What about them surprised you?

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14 Comments

  1. 2-13-2012

    The whole YA market surprises me a little bit. In my mind, I wonder what YA really means, because I’m pretty sure both Harry Potter and Hunger Games were classified as YA, but seemed very adult to me. Does YA just mean the main characters are teenagers? Or does it have to do with content? I’m kind of curious about that, because obviously both HP and HG reached a lot of adults too. I loved both of those series, but wouldn’t really consider myself a main consumer of YA fiction. I’m not opposed to trying more of it, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. (BTW, these books sound fun!)

    • 2-13-2012

      Good morning, Lindsay. I think your questions get to the root of one of the obstacles of marketing YA books to adults who don’t yet realize that they actually like YA.

      YA can be about the age of the characters. It can be about content. I’m thinking I need to devote an entire post to your questions.

      For now, I’ll say this:

      Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight – All of these series reached adults who would never even consider reading YA. Why? I think because these series were so widely read that these adults wanted to know what the fuss was over. The beauty of it is that now, there are adults who are realizing, “Wait a minute. You mean there are other awesome, well-written books out there written specifically for teen agers that I’d love, too?” And I’m wondering how do we market to those adults who are on the edge of realizing this. How do we push them over the edge and into a world of books they wouldn’t have considered before because maybe they had a young cover or a trendy title?

      Thanks for the comment!! Your questions have me really thinking.

  2. 2-13-2012

    LOVED Anna and the French Kiss. In fact, I reread it when I finished because I wanted to experience it again. I read the sample of Lola on my Kindle, but I was missing Anna and St. Claire. Does Lola get really good?

    • 2-13-2012

      It’s interesting. I probably loved Anna and St. Claire more, however, I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door for the vibrant characters and for the mess Lola puts herself in. I don’t want to give too much away, but Stephanie wasn’t compeltely done with Anna and St. Claire, either. She lets them make a reappearance. Remember where St. Claire’s mother lives?

  3. 2-13-2012

    I’m really picky about book covers, so it it looks cheesy, I’m apt not to read it, but I read one a few weeks ago and was so glad I did. I’ll keep that book quiet as not to offend from the cheesy cover. It wasn’t the author’s fault! 

    • 2-13-2012

      I know what you mean. And I by no means thought these books had “cheesy” covers (and I think you know that), but I’m simply overanalyzing why I hesitated to read the books at first. you know, to see if we can learn something from it.

      Of course we, the writers, have no control over our covers, so it’s really a moot point. Furthermore, now that I’ve read the books, the covers make me smile and want to dive right back into the stories.

      Strange. :/

  4. 2-13-2012

    I haven’t heard of these books. Thanks for the recommendation, Heather! It’d be fun to revisit Paris again, even if it’s through the pages of a book instead of real life. :)

    • 2-13-2012

      Sarah, based on the fact that you write humorous contemporary romance, I think you will love,love Stephanie Perkins.

  5. 2-13-2012

    I think there is a definite difference between young YA that teens and middle schoolers would like as older YA that both teens and adults would like. Especially adults that like their romance on the innocent side. I think it would have to be marketing, esp. the cover, and probably the title too. They are both very YA. :)

    • 2-14-2012

      That’s a good point, Laura. There is a sort of separation between the two groups you mention.

  6. 2-14-2012

    This was an author I discovered later too. She writes funny first person without being snarky.  I adored Anna and the French Kiss and bought a copy for my 15 year old niece (who loved it too). I still need to check out Lola and the Boy Next Door.

    • 2-14-2012

      Definitely. I loved the characterization of Lola and the Boy Next Door.

  7. 2-14-2012

    oooh! a new author! thanks for the recommendation. i just found Jennifer Echols…..read Love Story and could NOT put it down. she is also YA, but it was “older.” there was some language, not too much, but it’s not CBA. it was such a great premise, too….about a writer who writes about a boy she fantasizes about in her creative writing class…only to have that boy join the class and hear the story! now tell me you don’t want to go read that!

    anyway…HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!

    • 2-14-2012

      Anna and Lola are not CBA either. I’ve been meaning to check out Jennifer Echols’ Love Story. I’ll definitly have to. Sounds like a fantastic story. Thanks for stopping by with a recommendation this Valentine’s Day!