Friday, October 10, 2014

Review of Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins


Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?
Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.
(Summary from GoodReads)

Normally if I talk about having to wait forever for a book I’m being a little hyperbolic, and maybe I am here, too.  After falling in love with Anna at the end of 2010 and then Lola in 2011, you have no idea how ready to read Isla’s story I was.  Instead of devouring it right away, I saved it for a time when I knew I’d be able to read most of it in a sitting. Perkins’ latest is infused with passion and wraps up the trilogy nicely, but wasn’t really a satisfactory love story.

Isla isn’t a character we know well going into this story, but we quickly learn more about her shyness, insecurities, and her passion for adventure stories.  Readers are familiar with Josh because of Anna and the French Kiss, and we not only see how his passion for drawing has manifested throughout the years, but how different he is without Rashmi.  Isla falls in love with Josh from afar their freshman year, and this book starts off at their senior year, when Josh finally starts to notice Isla.

Reading Isla is very, very different from reading Anna and Lola because there is so much passion between Josh and Isla.  It’s sexy and luxurious in a way that the others aren’t.  While I don’t take issue with this, I fee like Perkins skipped over building a true romance between them. It felt like each character saw one quality they liked in the other and decided that this was enough to fall entirely in love without really getting to know one another. Where’s the part where they learn each others’ favorite foods, or talk about annoying habits?

Stephanie Perkins’ books are full of privileged characters, and Josh and Isla both do a lot of things that would be possible if they weren’t wealthy.  I don’t object to this, but I do find it a little weird that the characters didn’t really acknowledge it.  Perhaps it’s not the most teenager-like thing to do, but it would have added depth to the story. 

Isla and Josh create a lot of their own problems.  They do things that they aren’t supposed to, and they don’t talk it out when they should.  In Anna and Lola, there are external factors that affect the romances (like Ellie and Calliope).  While Isla and Josh creating their own problems is relatable, I don’t think it worked because the characters weren’t fleshed out enough.  How could they work through their issues when they had a flimsy connection in the first place?

The absolute best scene of this book is when several characters from the previous novel appear. I loved learning more about how their stories came together, but it wasn’t so much that it felt like a major distraction.

I have a lot of complaints about Isla, and in some ways, I feel a little weird writing such a negative review.  It reads quickly and is enjoyable.  I guess I just don’t feel like this is necessarily Perkins’ strongest book.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

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