Isla and the Happily Ever After
14th August 2014
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.
It's been, what, two years waiting for this book, so I think it's safe to say that expectations were high. After the adorable wonderfulness of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla really had a lot to live up to. And it fully met my expectations, even though I know that some people have been disappointed by it or just downright didn't like it. It is a different book from Anna and Lola in that it's not about that glorious and agonizing tension waiting for these two people to get together, and everything ending happily at the end when they do. It's about Isla and Josh getting together and being in a relationship, and it felt like a much more personal book because of that and because of Isla's character. I don't think that it had the same charm as the other two, but it resonated with me in some ways that the other didn't. However, even though I did love it, it's probably my least favourite of the series.
I did really like Isla and Josh, which I wasn't entirely expecting. Josh wasn't a character that really made an impression on me in Anna and I don't really go for the whole Broody Artist type. And I wasn't really too sure about Isla, either, even though I know I should really trust that Stephanie Perkins knows how to write good characters from her other two books. Isla is different from Anna and Lola though in that she didn't feel as distinct. I know that this was a negative for some people, but I appreciated the fact that she was kind of a blank canvas. It wasn't like she didn't have a personality or anything, because she did. She's sweet and awkward and a romantic. It's just that she didn't really have any interests outside of reading adventure novels and Josh. This was probably one of my least favourite things about the book, even though I know it was really important to the plot and Isla's development as a character. But even though she did have realisations about the fact that maybe she should try and be friends with people who weren't Josh or Kurt, and that she should take her future into her own hands and do what she wants to do, it didn't really go anywhere. I don't feel like she actually grew or changed that much at all, which was a bit of a bummer because it's something that Stephanie Perkins does so well, and it is just something in general that I notice and love about books.
I will say that I really loved being back in Paris. It was something I missed with Lola. Plus, they went to Barcelona and there was a couple of bits in Manhattan too, and basically wanderlust. I want to go to all the places. I also thing this was the most typically romantic of the books, and even though I usually prefer cute stuff as opposed to that whole desperately-in-love blah blah blah, I was in the right frame of mind for it when I read it. It was right for the characters, because they're both quite intense people. I also really loved Josh's graphic novel, and I would love it if it became an actual thing. I would read it. But yeah, I just really enjoyed it's importance and I felt like I could picture it really well and it was just described so well.
I know I sound pretty negative in this review, because I've had some time to think about it and really think about what I think worked or didn't work about it, but it's the only one of these books to make me cry. I did really care about Isla and Josh and their relationship, even if it's typically not the kind of relationship I enjoy reading it. I felt so involved, and I just want them both to be happy. And I think in this case my emotional involvement with the book kind of completely overtook any doubts I had or any issues I have. It made me shed a couple of tears in happiness, and I am so sad for these books to be over. Though I guess I could just reread them all... Yeah. That sounds like a good plan.
Isla and the Happily Ever After didn't have quite the same charm or lightness that I loved so much about Anna and Lola, but I feel like it was the right way to end this sort of series. Plus, I loved getting to see Anna and St Clair and Lola and Cricket, and see their stories continued in it as well. Not quite as great, in my opinion, but still a really wonderful book that I enjoyed a lot.