With the To All the Boys series set to wrap up this week, it’s time to talk about what the next big Netflix young adult romance adaptation could be—because we now know it’s not going to be The Summer I Turned Pretty. The streamer has been leaning much more heavily into the teen romance genre in recent years, which means some iconic YA romance getting screen adaptations. On that note, it’s recently come to my attention that Anna and the French Kiss, the debut novel from author Stephanie Perkins that follows an American teen to Paris for her senior year of high school, is 20 years old. It’s a foundational text of the genre, and it’s long past time it gets the screen treatment. Now that mainstream content creators are recognizing the power of romance as a genre, where is the Anna and the French Kiss adaptation we’ve all been waiting for?
Anna and the French Kiss follows Atlantan teenager Anna who is unexpectedly informed by her father that she will be attending her senior year abroad at a boarding school in Paris. (The horror!) Anna is pissed. She has a good job at the local movie theater, an excellent best friend, and a swoon-worthy crush—all of which she’ll have to leave behind to attend school in a country where she doesn’t even speak the language. But Anna doesn’t have a choice and, before she knows it, she’s in the City of Light. Of course, during her time in Paris, Anna falls in love with city and its appreciation of cinema, as well as with fellow boarding school attendee Étienne St. Clair. It’s wasn’t a very relatable premise in 2010, when the book first hit shelves, and it’s an even less relatable premise in 2021, when income inequality continues to grow and COVID-19 has kept most people firmly within the borders of their home country, but who wants realism in 2021? We want a romantic, Paris-set fantasy to escape into, one where money flows free, COVID-19 doesn’t exist, and international boarding schools are not only accessible but made for falling in love.
In addition to the built-in fanbase, Anna and the French Kiss has quite a bit in common with recent Netflix success Emily in Paris, which proves there is an audience for this kind of content—i.e. romantic fantasy that isn’t traditionally good so much as luxuriously easy. Ideally, I’d like an Anna and the French Kiss adaptation to aim for the stars, but I also want to recognize the value of having dumb, beautiful fantasy for women to escape into. (Notably, in the case of Emily in Paris, a very white fantasy for a very multicultural city and world.) Although I think much of the criticism directed at Emily in Paris has been warranted, I would argue that the vicious intensity of it is rooted in our culture’s knee-jerk misogyny that devalues and dislikes products made for women. If I had a nickel for every mediocre TV series about a white dude nominated for a Golden Globe, I would still not be able to afford a Parisian boarding school, but I would have a lot more nickels.
That being said, one of the perks of an Anna and the French Kiss adaptation would be the opportunity to update the source material: Race and gender bend characters. Make Anna a little more self-aware and culturally sensitive. And, perhaps most importantly, remove the plot mechanics that pit Anna against Étienne’s girlfriend, Ellie. I have a nostalgic love for this book and genuinely think it could make a great adaptation, but it was written two decades ago in a completely different world and culture—embrace the power of adaptation, and show us a Paris that reflects the Paris of today and a teenage experience that reflects the teens of today.
This all may seem like a somewhat random recommendation to make, given the fact that Anna and the French Kiss is a teen romance novel written 20 years ago, but Netflix is currently hard at work adapting another novel from Perkins, There’s Someone Inside Your House, which is set to drop on the streaming service any day now. In a recent interview with Buzzfeed, Perkins said: “I always joke that There’s Someone Inside Your House is like Anna [and the French Kiss] — but with murder. It’s definitely still my voice, and it even contains a love story. The Netflix movie has been thrilling. I’m so far removed from the process of making it, which means that I get to just enjoy it as an audience member.” If There’s Someone Inside Your House does well for Netflix, they could be looking to adapt more from the novelist, and Anna and the French Kiss is right there.
Past its narrative connection to past and potential future Netflix hits, Anna and the French Kiss boasts what most content-creators look for in an adaptation: franchise potential. I’m not saying Anna and the French Kiss is the next Star Wars, but the series continues with two other teen-centric love stories set in the same world. We get cameos from Anna in both books, but they are largely their own stories, encouraging an anthology-like screen adaptation that could go on well past the source material, if it were successful. Pair a city with a teen romance and you’re good to go. For now, I’ll just continue wishing for an Anna and the French Kiss adaptation that pays homage to the classic YA romance novel while also improving it for our modern world.
Which teen romance would you like to see Netflix adapt next? Let us know in the comments below!