August 26, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After - Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After book cover
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: August 14, 2014
Source/Format: Borrowed from a friend (Thanks!) || ARC

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever. (modified, from Goodreads)

It feels like I have been waiting for a very long time for Isla and the Happily Ever After, and this is the year that it’s finally, finally here. Thanks to an amazing friend of mine, I was able to read it early! I’ll be honest: the wait gave me expectations, and pretty big ones. While I do have a couple of reservations about Isla and the Happily Ever After, the bottom line is this: I still devoured the story, and thoroughly enjoyed it too!

What has stood out, time after time, about a Perkins novel are her characters. She has managed to craft characters that are authentic and aspirational, so very different from readers, and yet still so relatable (and crush-worthy, in the case of these boys). I felt this way about Anna & Etienne in Anna and the French Kiss, and again about Lola & Cricket in Lola and the Boy Next Door. Happily, the trend continues in Isla and the Happily Ever After with Isla & Josh.

Admittedly, Isla is not my favorite of the Perkins girls. She does have a lot going for her: she’s smart (as in pretty much guaranteed to do well academically), independent, loyal (especially to her family and friends), and observant (especially when it comes to things that interest her). While I liked her, she came as self-absorbed and dramatic at times. I’m obviously not saying this is a terrible thing (especially as I do know people in real life who are like this too), but it did get on my nerves just the teensiest bit.

But there’s Josh, who I pretty much couldn’t help but crush on. He’s an artistic soul, passionate about his craft and dedicated to his dream of creating a graphic novel about his life. Josh is sweet, and romantic, a boy with wanderlust in his soul. He has plans for himself, and his life, and I admired that. In a way, he reminded me a little of Jack in Racing Savannah, if only because both boys had important family obligations to deal with that made it difficult for their girls to be with them.

Perkins has, again, sprinkled her story with memorable secondary characters. Kurt, for instance, is Isla’s best friend, who has a unique interest in maps, directions and finding the “right way”. There’s also Isla’s family (her parents + her sisters), and Josh’s family (his parents), who all play an important role in Isla & Josh’s story. I’m particularly enamored with the cameos from some familiar faces, however, and just wanted to hug the book when certain people finally appeared in this story!

In terms of story, Isla and the Happily Ever After was pretty dramatic! It focused mostly on the romance, which had swoony moments and rocky moments. I loved the imperfection, and lapped up the drama, which was easy to do because I shipped Isla and Josh so, so much. They’re both real, both flawed, and they both make a few mistakes. I love that even so, they were still sources of strength, encouragement, inspiration and understanding to each other. They certainly had me smiling like a fool, and dying of swoons at times, which I obviously loved.

But Perkins makes a point to try to include Isla’s personal struggles too, as Isla deals with her insecurities and doubts. It’s not just the romance that Isla is conflicted about, but also her own life choices. Perkins weaves the serious aspects of Isla and the Happily Ever After into a whirlwind adventure, creating a pretty darn awesome cocktail of romance, drama, and real life craziness. It was addictive, and I found myself turning the pages just so I could find out what would happen in the end!

Honestly, I simply enjoyed Isla and the Happily Ever After. It makes for a fun, long-awaited addition to the Perkins’ companion novels, and is written with the same signature Perkins charm as the others. Even though it didn’t quite sweep me away the way Anna and the French Kiss did years ago, I still really liked it! It satisfied my need for a new Perkins story, and did it pretty darn well too.


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