Paris – the city, not the socialite – is kind of having a moment in pop culture, again. We’ve all been drooling over the gorgeous scenery porn that makes Emily in Paris watchable before adding more Pinterest pins to our travel vision board for 2022. Heck, some of us are even quietly streaming that okay-ish Chainsmokers song about Paris before skipping over to Christine and the Queens for a palate cleanser. I would also be remiss to not talk about the best things to come from the city in recent times, yes, I am talking about Céline Sciamma and Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Which is why reading Kisses & Croissants by French author Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau had us falling in love with a story that embodied the allure of the city itself.
The story reads like this: Mia Jenrow is a sixteen-year-old American ballerina who’s made it into an elite summer ballet program in Paris. With six weeks to prove herself and achieve her dreams: snagging an audition with one of the world’s best ballet companies. She’s all set to prove how much ballet means to her with her hard work and passion.
But there’s more to Paris than just ballet and all the delicious croissants that she can’t stop indulging in – especially when Mia encounters the easy-going but charming French boy Louis, who wants to be her tour guide and unravel parts of her along the way. Topped off with a family mystery that may prove that ballet is in her blood with an ancestress being one of the ballerinas in the famed Degas painting, Mia is all set for a summer like no other.
In an exclusive interview with The Tempest (which we’ll release in full soon, stay tuned!), Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau shares her thoughts on her English language debut novel finally being out into the world, whether she’s secretly following ballerinas (or an art enthusiast, given the novel’s Degas subplot) and what inspired her to reinvent the teen romance genre trope with her refreshing book.
“There are a few YA novels about study trips abroad to Europe, so I liked the idea of Mia having a different sense of purpose for going to Paris,” says Jouhanneau, “It’s important to me to portray young girls as being in charge of their own destiny. That’s true for every character, but it feels even more meaningful to write girls who are driven and not afraid to go after their dreams.” In fact, spirited heroine Mia spends a good chunk of the book honing her art and wondering whether she would be good enough for the program’s prickly perfectionist instructor who comes off as a male Miranda Priestly.
While the book serves as a love letter to Paris, with the city establishing itself as a vibrant main character, the author notes that it is only natural that any love story set in Paris, “should be a love story with the city, itself.”
The book also provided a lighter take on the ballet sub-genre due to Jouhanneau’s love for the performing arts and wanting to explore its beauty through a lighter perspective. Mia is a high-strung teenager, who spends the initial half of the work competing with a long-time ballet rival and foil, Audrey but she learns to develop a healthy relationship with her peers and her rival. “As I started researching this story, I noticed that several YA novels featuring ballet dancers have darker themes. I knew Kisses and Croissants would be romantic and upbeat, so it was an opportunity to explore the artistry and beauty of ballet through a lighter lens.” said Jouheanneau.
But as Mia grows, she learns to live life with a more seize-the-day approach, through Louis, her French love interest (“the dream French boyfriend”, according to the author). More importantly, the main character acts as a medium through which we are reminded to let life run its course even when things don’t quite go according to plan, given the trials and tribulations she goes to in her quest to get into her dream ballet school.
There is also the absolutely interesting Degas subplot that had the inner art enthusiast in us jumping because we love a good mystery especially one that comes from family lore! How did the author get about plotting that nifty subplot which is much closer to real life than reel life, “I’m a big art enthusiast,” says Anne-Sophie Jouheanneau, “I spend a lot of time roaming museums and art exhibitions, both in New York [where I live] and when I travel. I really enjoyed researching Degas paintings and deciding which would be Mia’s favorite. It was also a fun way to take Mia and Louis on adventures throughout the city.”
Which brings us to the deliciously cute love interest of Mia who has us sighing over not bumping into cute French boys who drive Vespas. “I know it sounds corny but I love love. Relationships—romantic or not—are forever fascinating to me, so they play a big part in how I think about stories. Both as a reader and as a writer, I need some romance in my fiction, even if it’s not the main element. Writing a love story feels so natural to me.” says Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau.
So what is next for Jouhanneau, will we see a sequel for Kisses & Croissants or a book in the works? While Kisses & Croissants is a fully-realized story, the author is hard at work on an upcoming standalone YA romance, slated to be published in fall 2022. Till then, feed your appetite with this sweet offering.
The Tempest is also releasing the first chapter of Kisses and Croissants tomorrow + the full Q&A with Anne-Sophie! In that post, you’ll also have the chance to enter a giveaway for the book. Also don’t miss our live event with her on our Bookstagram on April 5, which you can rewatch in our IGTV section after.
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