The last Wildfire title that appeared in this space, Recipe for Romance, was basically a stupid story that was well-written. This one is just a stupid story that is badly written. Whereas that title at least had a gimmick, a main character with a goal and some local color, Love Comes to Anne is set in a generic suburb of an unnamed city (all we know is that it’s not Chicago) and features a main character who does not do much of anything. It is also the first book under the Wildfire imprint, so I assume much of this is because they haven’t really decided what to do with the series or built up their stable of reliable Cooneys, Cavanaghs and Claypool-Miners. Luckily for you, readers, there is at least enough weird stuff going on in this one to make it worth taking a look at.
The Plot: 16 year old Anne falls in love at first sight with 19 year old French exchange student Pierre, who is sadly not an Olympic ice dancer. They are in the high school chorus together and soon start to date, which is briefly met with disapproval by Anne’s long-time boyfriend, a doughy sort of fellow named Chuck. For reasons that are never explained, Anne’s parents don’t approve of Pierre either. At one point Anne’s mother refers to him as “exotic”, which I guess is supposed to be a slur on his character? Anne and Pierre date through the fall semester, and at Christmas Pierre asks Anne to marry him and move to France. Yeah: ???? Ultimately, Anne decides that is not a good idea and the books ends with Pierre vowing to come back and marry her next year, when she will obviously be 17, which somehow makes it much better idea. Yeah: ????
So, that was pretty much totally boring. The only things this book has going for it are
1.) All of Pierre’s dialogue. Seriously, I have to exercise so much restraint to not just make this recap 8 pages of things Pierre says. It’s like in order to research how French people might act, the author did nothing but watch Pepe Le Pew cartoons.
2.) I don’t know if the book was bulked up or trimmed down during the editorial process, but there are non sequiturs that seem to be evidence of truly insane plot threads that either got dropped or left undeveloped.
Also, in the first chapter the author abruptly switches to the second person for a lengthy paragraph, which kind makes it read like the most boring Choose Your Own Adventure book ever:
You know how many different ways a boy can come into a girl’s life, suddenly, unexpectedly? You can collide on bicycles. You can both reach for the same book at the library at the same time… You can meet Alice Higgins or Judy Morris on the street with a wonderful guy in tow and hear her introduce him to you…
So, one afternoon in October Anne sees Pierre for the first time, and we get some valuable sartorial advice from 1979, as Anne wishes that she had a sign from the heavens that she was about to meet the man of her dreams and had dressed appropriately:
[A]t the very least, some extra sense would tell her to wear her new jeans and her red sweater. On the October afternoon Anne saw Pierre for the first time, she was wearing the crazy gypsy-striped granny dress.
Got that, ladies? If you want to ride in my fabric-based time machine to 1979, remember that it’s bizarro Earth: wear jeans and a sweater when you want to impress a dude; putting forth the effort to dress like a demented Holly Hobby is only for when you don’t care how you look!
While, sadly, Pierre is not an Olympic ice dancer, we are treated to endless descriptions of his porcelain skin and graceful way with a walk:
This boy moved as if he didn’t have any weight, as though gravity, which pulled Anne and everyone else downward, had no effect on him.
Anne noticed how clean his hands were, and how neatly his fingernails were trimmed and the ends of his long, pale fingers, and how tiny pale hairs danced like a dusting of gold on the back of his hands and fingers…
So, after sitting across the table from Pierre at a local after-school hangout called The Burgery (GROSS NAME FOR A RESTAURANT, GUYS!) Anne stalks him for awhile. Pierre stalks her for awhile. It is really boring, but at least Pierre occasionally says, how do you say, things?:
(Referring to walking on the sidewalk) “Ah, yes, it is tactile. I agree.”
“It is so next to my class. This is a coincidence. I have thought of you. Have you thought of me?”
“And who better for you to marry than me? I am handsome, am I not?”
“I have a great respect for Billy Joel. The Beatles as well, although of course they no longer sing together, yet I have many of their albums.”
“I think Billy Joel in some respects is as original as- you will perhaps think I am exaggerating, but no, in many respects Billy Joel is as original as Beethoven. That is an incredible statement but I think it is to be true.”
“Anne, my father is, how to say, a very prosperous man.”
And what does Pierre’s father do for a living that makes him so, how to say, prosperous? Is he in real estate or the CEO of a French corporation? No! Those jobs are obviously not Frenchy enough! We learn that his father is Secretarie Generale of the Fromageries cooperatifs. Pierre is heir to a chevre fortune.
Which leads to two very awkwardly written scenes. This first involves Anne and Pierre going to a for-reals grown up New Years Eve party and Pierre has an in-depth discussion about the family business which sounds like it was copied verbatim from the encyclopedia entry “Goat Cheese, making of”.
The second is when Pierre comes to dinner at Anne’s house and brings a gift of a chevre log, which her parents inexplicably treat as if it is poisoned. Then Anne’s mother loses her shit when Pierre kisses her hand in greeting.
Although, mood disorders may run in the family, since on pretty much every page Anne is described as alternately “giggling”, “chuckling”, “laughing gaily” and “sobbing” or “suddenly bursting into tears” as she thinks of Pierre.
There are a few amazing non-sequiturs that somehow got slipped into the text. For example, Anne contemplates how Pierre is different from the other guys:
Different. Not just different, like her mother’s friend who was a dancer, but foreign different.
So, from France-different, not gay-different?
He could be light-hearted and unflappable about all sorts of things, even things that disturbed her because they were so- well, sophisticated, like that girl in the senior class who was actually living in her boyfriend’s apartment.
But the best has to be this paragraph about Anne’s chorus director which is dropped in out of nowhere and never followed up on:
They talked for a moment about Choral Club and Mr. Petri. They all, except Pierre, knew that he had been divorced the year before they got to high school and that his ex-wife was one of his ex-students.
“Did you hear?” Marge asked. “He’s getting married again at Christmas vacation and his new wife is only 19!”
“Mr. Petri must be over forty,” said Anne
“Over fifty, my mother says,” said Margie.
“Bravo, Mr. Petri,” said Pierre.
Sign it was written in 1979 department: Anne’s mother makes a special point of having a bath and getting dolled up in fresh makeup, perfume and a new dress every single evening before her husband comes home from work.
Also, despite the fact that three years have passed everyone is still yammering about the bicentennial.
Bonus oddly specific non-sequitur department: “Maybe she would make a real French salad dressing tonight instead of using the usual ‘Spicy-Sweet Catalina’” (p. 28)
Evidence of a cease-and-desist from Ralston Purina department: Anne’s younger brother is constantly eating a breakfast cereal called “Wheat Chux”.
Impetuous! Homeric! Department: Pierre describes everything as “formidable”, including freeway exit ramps and the making of snow angels.