Since it's Valentine's Day, or it was yesterday, I thought I'd upload the final review in my Stephanie Perkins reviews.
If you don't know who Stephanie Perkins is, then I don't know how you've been spending the time since Anna And The French Kiss came out. Living without internet or access to a bookstore or something.
Anyways, Stephanie Perkins is, in my most humble opinion, the queen of contemporary romance. She writes love stories like a goddess and I think she is one of the most talented story writers in YA at the moment.
If you haven't ever heard of Stephanie or her two other books, then you can see my review for Anna And The French Kiss (book one) here, and my review for Lola And The Boy Next Door (book two) here. I loved both of them equally, and so it's no surprise that I adored Isla And The Happily Ever After.
I don't think I can accurately sum up this book, so here's the goodreads synopsis-
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.
Just trust me that this book is every bit as perfect and cutesy as Anna and Lola, and that it is absolutely one of my essential reads of EVER. So please go read it if you haven't already, so that I don't spoil you, but you can always go back and read my reviews for Anna and Lola in the links above.
Ohmyjace. This book is the epitome of a Stephanie Perkins novel. It's cutesy, adorable, heart-wrenching and so perfect it literally made me feel like I would cry. I also read the book in three sittings, and probably in just a few hours.
Firstly, let's start with my favourite thing about these books. The setting. For those who don't know, I desperately want to go to New York, Paris and London, and this book was set in two of those places. I love that Stephanie is able to set three different stories in three different places and still have everything so connected. The three storylines converged perfectly at the end of the book, which was just perfect. I should have realised that the Winter Olympics mention was foreshadowing for Calliope, Cricket and Lola making an appearance, but I didn't. It was a really, really sweet surprise.
Also Anna and Étienne at the end. I think my heart burst just a little. I did not see that coming, however I'm so glad it did. I now am desperate for a follow-on book where we can see Anna and Étienne's wedding and their life. Basically I just want a novella of cutesy, domestic Anna/Étienne fluff. But I'm sure many other people do as well, so, Stephanie, if you see this, please? Pretty please?
Now onto the actual story. I wasn't overly fond of Isla at the beginning. I adored the scene at Kismet, where Isla was still foggy from the drugs after her operation. Everything she said was just hilarious, and their interactions were adorable. I loved that our first experience with Isla was one where she could barely narrate, let alone talk with her long-time crush. It was so interesting seeing her un-drugged character after that.
Personally, I found Isla a bit needy, due to her insecurities. I understand that was her character, but the way she used things like Rashmi against Josh to try and convince herself that he didn't love her was just plain annoying and a bit ridiculous. I didn't find her as fun to read as Anna and Lola, at some points, but thankfully, her character developed significantly by the end of the book.
I did, however, like Josh. I couldn't profile him, couldn't file him under any of my pre-existing character indexes I have for YA male love interests. I expected him to file under "popular-but-actually-really-sweet-and-not-at-all-interested-in-school-politics/the-social-hierarchy" but then after actually reading more about him, he also filed under "bad-boy-who-has-little-regard-for-rules" and "nerdy-comic-obsessed-cutie-pie". And on top of that, he was also hilarious and an artist. Stephanie Perkins has once again created characters that are so unique and real that I cannot file them under pre-existing titles. But I'll gush more about Stephanie's expert character creation later on. Josh was a really interesting character, and I think he fit really well with Isla. Their differences, in the end, were the thing that bonded them.
Reading this book honestly made me feel like I was living in between Josh and Isla. The first half, when they were still newly dating and very much in their own protected, safe bubble of new love made me feel light and happy and carefree. Endless pages and chapters of cutesy fluff and adorably awkward first dates. I felt like Isla did, half in shock, half in a state of euphoria. The optimist in me (yes, she exists, she's just very small and often overpowered by Miss Pessimist), told me nothing could go wrong, the whole book would be perfect, happy, in love characters with no painful unrequited love, break-ups or struggles. But I knew it all had to come crashing down at some point, and crashing down it did come.
I physically could not put the book down during the scene at the party with Josh's parents and all those famous, high-profile people. I knew something was going to go wrong. Isla had already hinted that she wasn't fond of the "whole life Josh had without her", which is pretty much what she said. I knew, that with her insecure nature and her unease around "Television Josh", and the act he put on in front of the cameras and for the sake of his dad.
And, everything did go wrong. I wished Isla would just shut up. I knew she was winding him up, still stewing over what the head of school said about her and Josh (remember that comment where she basically implied that Isla's affections for Josh weren't requited in the same way?), and through what she had previously said about not being sure if he really loved her. It really did feel like she was trying to get him to break up with her, or trying to make excuses to break up with him.
I think her reaction to everything Rashmi was really unnecessary. When I say I found Isla to be a tad annoying at times, this is what I mean. She knew Josh and Rashmi were together for a long time, she knew that they were pretty serious. And so I found it irritating that Isla got so jealous that she basically downgraded herself to a "placecard", filling a place Josh wanted to fill with someone he could think he was in love with. But at the same time as being really, really frustrating, this was prefect writing and brilliantly crafted. Trying to understand and explain Isla's mentality and reasoning here is quite hard, but when I was reading it, I got it. I understood what Isla meant and I got her twisted, loop-the-loop logic. I don't think I would react that same way as Isla, I really don't, but what was so spectacular about this book was that even though I'm not a whole lot like Isla personality wise, I totally understood her and was able to relate to her. Stephanie Perkins has this wonderful way of completely humanizing all her characters, which automatically makes them super-easy to relate to.
Kurt was adorable, and I was so, so thankful this book didn't turn into a love triangle situation. Any sort of romantic interest between Kurt and Isla would've been forced and completely unnecessary, and I'm so glad that it didn't come to that. I really liked Kurt, and I loved that Josh was completely accepting of him, and that he made a legitimate effort to get to know him and to interact with him in a way that was beneficial to everyone.
I also loved the storyline of Isla and her two sisters. As the oldest of three girls, I can confirm that with a few changes, those three girls were pretty close to me and my sisters. The dynamic between the three of them is really similar to our own, and the struggles the three of them went through relationship wise were really relatable to me, as it was a dynamic I'm all too familiar with, and I loved seeing it through Isla's eyes.
The end was probably my favourite, where Étienne, Anna, Cricket, Lola, Isla, Josh and Meredith all had dinner together. Despite absolutely loving every minute of that scene, a lot of the time I was thinking, "poor Meredith". She was like, the seventh wheel and that might've sucked, seeing as though she used to be in love with Étienne. Besides that, I'm totally up for a novella focusing on either Cricket/Étienne/Josh or Lola/Anna/Isla. I would love to see their friendship develop and grow, and they're all so cute together. I honestly cannot believe Anna and Étienne are getting married. I honestly need a novella about it.
The end, where Isla was reading Josh's new graphic memoir was a really sweet ending. I loved that he knew her so well, he was able to predict how she'd be reading it and he actually drew it in there. It was pretty meta. I also want a copy of the graphic memoir. I loved the ending almost as much as the beginning, and I'm so sad to let this series go.
All in all, Isla And The Happily Ever After was just as incredible as I knew it would be. It was fun, cute and perfect. I would highly recommend it, but I'm sure that's not new to any of you.
Let me know what you though about Isla in the comments, to my twitter (@lilypherondale) or to my tumblr, sherlock crumpets (the link is in the bar at the top of the page). If you want to contact me for business or just to say hi and you need more than 140 characters, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I'd love to hear from you!
See you next week for another post!