I didn’t faint from extreme emotion while reading this book … but the writing, character-development, tension, voice and (of course) romantic hero are all so incredible swoon-worthy in this book that I think if I were the fainting type Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins, would totally have had me reaching for my smelling salts.
In my mind Stephanie Perkins can do no wrong when it comes to contemporary YA romance. Like many fans of her previous books, I’ve been eagerly waiting and anticipating this last companion book.
I had no doubt that I would love the book, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that Isla totally blew my expectations out of the water.
Before I continue gushing, here is a short summary of the book from goodreads:
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.
Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.
When I love a romance it is usually because I either hugely relate to the main character (and therefore am happy that he/she finds love) or develop a huge literary crush on the romantic interest (and therefore am happy to live vicariously through the main character falling in love with him/her). In Anna and the French Kiss – I related to Anna. In Lola and the Boy Next Door – I fell in love (deep fictional love) with Cricket Bell.
But here’s the thing, I loved and related to both Josh and Isla.
I liked that Perkins broke with both her patterns from the previous novels and most YA romances, to show a more long term and complicated view of love and relationships. As a reader, you get all the mushy-gushy-butterfly feelings right up-front … but then they don’t last. You are left with the question of what happens now? Which as a reader (and a writer) is kind of the most exciting question of all.
I have two more – okay maybe three more – aspects of the books I want to point out before I end my love-fest for this novel.
(1) While I really like how in Perkins’ previous novels the heroines have defined passions, I loved that Isla didn’t really know what her thing was yet. Josh has art. Her best friend, Kurt, has maps. But Isla hasn’t discovered a clear path. That felt both relatable and so true to life. Not everyone has figured everything out by age seventeen.
(2) Speaking of Kurt … I found him a fascinating and rare YA character. I liked having Isla and Kurt’s friendship be so central to Isla’s life and her relationship with Josh. Additionally, it was really great to have a character with highly functioning autism included in the book.
(3) I just can’t get over how Perkins has mastered voice. She is such an active writer. I’ve reread the book twice this week to try to figure out how she’s done it.
So in case you haven’t noticed, I definitely recommend this book. The Anna/Lola/Isla books aren’t really a series, but they do share some characters and common settings. You might want to read them in order, but it isn’t a necessity.
If you’ve read the books let me know what you think in the comments. I’m definitely looking for people to rave about this book with.