Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

isla

The wait is over, and the third installment of “Anna and the French Kiss” series is here!

Isla Martin (pronounced “Eye-la”, thanks for clarifying that, Steph!) is a tiny ginger dreamer who lives between USA and France and, as it often occurs with students who have perfect records, doesn’t know what she wants to do next. And she’s in love with Josh Wasserstein, a troubled artistic classmate of hers. They went to the same school in Paris for three years, but never really spoke, save for a few embarrassing Isla moments (oh Isla, I feel your pain!). Finally, they meet accidentally over the summer before their senior year in their hometown of New York. Ever since then, they can’t stop thinking about each other. Well, that’s not new for Isla, who’s been in love with him since freshman year. To paraphrase Darren Criss, you never tell a boy you like him, it makes you look like an idiot!

Poor Isla knows that all too well. However, nothing gets in the way of a petite smart redhead with a crush. She asks him out and the beautiful saga of Isla-and-Josh starts in the world’s most romantic city (well, that’s subjective because I personally prefer Vienna).

Ahh, young love. Unfortunately, love clouds judgments, especially if they’re both teenagers and one of them is passive-aggressively trying to get himself kicked out. Josh finally succeeds in doing so, and poor Isla is alone again. Distance sucks for new relationships and she starts questioning things. That’s not helped by Josh’s graphic novel which contains VERY explicit images of his gorgeous ex-girlfriend Rashmi. Will Isla be able to get past the jealousy and the insecurities or is the love between the rebellious artist and the dreamer doomed?

I think this book is my favourite out of all three, with “Anna” being a close second. I didn’t really connect with “Lola”, and I would probably have enjoyed it more if Calliope were the main character in it. “Isla” takes a slightly different approach to the previous two. While the setting and the aspects of characters’ lives, such as art and family lives, are still heavily romanticised like in “Anna” and “Lola”, “Isla” places a bigger emphasis on character development and, is, dare I say it, a lot sexier. The descriptions of certain moments were very steamy, which I loved. The fact that their first time was in Barcelona was awesome. I love that city to bits, not least because lots of first (but not that one!) took place there for me – my first vacation with friends, my first time in Europe (beside England), my first time experiencing the wonders of Sangria (wait till you’re 18, kids! or 21 if you’re in the States)… It was wonderful to read about the places I loved visiting. Sagrada Familia. Parc Guell. Las Ramblas. Reading about them is almost as good as experiencing them again. Almost.

Ah, I miss Spain.

It was also lovely to see Anna and Etienne again. And THAT MOMENT AT POINT ZERO. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting it but it was PERFECT. And it resonated perfectly with the first book – Paris was another character in “Anna” and it was making a return in a very unexpected but beautiful way. This book is, however, 90% about Isla-and-Josh. “Lola” was different from that, in a way that only 60-70% of it was about Lola and Cricket – the rest was occupied by Anna and Etienne. That’s not to say that “Isla’s” side characters didn’t play a big part in the book. Isla’s best friend, Kurt was great, and props to Stephanie for including an autistic character and giving him a real personality that wasn’t solely driven by his mental health issues. Isla’s sisters were also featured, although most of their interactions related to Josh in one way or another.

Overall, best of the three! However, as you are probably tired of hearing by now, my cynicism prevents me from truly enjoying romance novels. Therefore – 8/10 is my rating for “Isla and the Happily Ever After”.

 

Favourite character

I loved Isla, and Josh was pretty cool. But Etienne St Clair is my favourite character in the series. I realised that after he said a particular thing about a celebratory dessert and… the Point Zero thing (intrigued as to what it is yet?)

 

Most relatable character

Isla, Isla, and did I mention Isla? Reading her point of view was like looking into myself a few years ago.

Did I say a few years ago? Who am I kidding? At 22, I am still an avid reader with no clear direction in life and I spent the last year of my life doubting myself because of a failed relationship (one year too long if you ask me). Although in my case he WAS the problem, I understood what Isla was going through. While she got really lucky with Josh (who’s not my type but to each their own), it didn’t mean that a relationship with him was going to cure her of all insecurities at once. Isla felt real and relatable because of that to me. Moreover, I was also guilty of picking fights over nothing with my exes for the same reasons she did – insecurities and long-lasting crushes. Pretending like things were OK and that I wasn’t upset with them was a big problem in my last relationship, even if it wasn’t the main cause for its termination.

These days I feel like Isla – I am guarded and armed with blunt approaches towards people.

Unhealthy? Perhaps.

Mean? Quite likely.

But in Isla’s words, isn’t it better to be honest about these things before someone else can use them against you?

She’s right about that. And unfortunately, SPOILER happy endings END SPOILER with cute artistic guys don’t happen in real life too often.

Another thing I loved about her is that like me, she’s spent her life between two countries. I related quite a bit to her divided, for the lack of a better word, allegiances. Living between two states is not easy, even if you don’t have a boyfriend who is the son of an American Senator and whom you met at a Parisian school, and Stephanie Perkins portrays that really well. While romance is the main theme of the series, kudos to Mrs Perkins for fleshing out her characters. Admittedly, Anna and especially Lola weren’t as relatable and fleshed out as Isla, but the beautiful setting in “Anna” and colourful clothing descriptions in “Lola” made up for it.

Finally, Isla reads a lot, almost as much as I do. While I am not a big fan of graphic novels, I still consider reading materials, be it books or comics, to be a primary part of my comfort zone. Until I reached my late teens, I felt, like Isla, that reading was safer than going on a real adventure. I still love reading more than anything, but I’ve taken many risks since then and learnt that “the rest, the unknown… it’ll come. And that I’m looking forward to it”.

As you probably gathered, the last line was a quote from “Isla”. Perkins may have alluded it to the Isla/Josh relationship, but it can apply to the rest of the aspects of Isla’s life equally well.

 

Favourite quotes

“You read a lot. – Safer than going on a real adventure”

“Josh literally lost his virginity in front of a metaphor for sex”

“I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s okay to be a blank canvas. Maybe it’s okay that my future is unknown”

“The rest, the unknown… it’ll come. And I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Dreamcast 

I’ll do my dreamcast for all the characters of the series

Anna Oliphant – Ashley Clements

Etienne St Clair – Jeremy Kapone

Lola Nolan – Lindsay Shaw

Cricket Bell – Andrew Garfield

Isla Martin – Mary Kate Wiles

Josh Wasserstein – Ian Harding 

 

Recommendations

You would like “Isla and the Happily Ever Afrer” if you liked:

“Anna and the French Kiss” and “Lola and the Boy Next Door” by Stephanie Perkins – well, you probably read them before you read “Isla”

“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

“I am the Messenger” by Markus Zusak

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One thought on “Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

  1. I loved this book too. I think it is my favorite of the Perkins trio. I felt like Isla was incredibly relatable, and more realistic than Anna and Lola – who basically had everything about themselves figured out.

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