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Stephanie Perkins – Isla and the Happily Ever After

November 17, 2014

84. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (2014)

Read my review of book:
1. Anna and the French Kiss
2. Lola and the Boy Next Door

Length: 344 pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Started / Finished: 18 October 2014 (during the readathon!)

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I really liked Perkins’s first two books, and was looking forward to more.

It’s hard to decide
the rest of your life when you’re
only seventeen.

Summary: For Isla, a rising senior at the School of America in Paris, her classmate Josh has always seemed out of reach. She’s had a crush on him forever, but he’s always seemed kind of aloof, focusing more on drawing his graphic novel autobiography and his upperclassmen friends than on his schoolwork, and Isla’s way too shy to actually talk to him – the only person she really trusts is her best friend Kurt. But when Isla and Josh run into each other in New York over the summer, things may start to change, and hidden attractions start to come to the surface. But senior year of high school is a tumultuous time to start a new relationship, with the accumulated drama of high school, family issues, and questions about college and the future and what’s going to happen with the rest of your life looming over everything.

Review: These books are a lot of fun, simple and sweet but with characters that are believable and sympathetic. Out of all three books in this series (it’s a very loose series – characters from previous books make cameo appearances in later books but each one can certainly be read independently), Anna and the French Kiss is still my favorite, but I definitely sympathized with Isla the most. I remember that anxiety, that fear about the future, about how do you make those choices, and what if you make the wrong choice, and what if it’s not really you deciding, but just circumstances pushing you in one direction and then those circumstances change, and what do you do then? I remember that from when I was a high school senior trying to make college choices. Hell, I remember that from yesterday: I’m twice Isla’s age and I still have that anxiety when it comes to making major (or even not-so-major) life choices. (As Isla says: “It’s impossible, the not-knowing, but it’s better than getting the wrong answer.” I hear you, girl. And I might need her sister’s advice “So take a risk and find out. The sooner you ask him, the sooner you can get on with your life.” tattooed on my forehead.) So I sympathized with her pretty strongly, and immediately recognized the way those sorts of uncertainties can affect your relationships with everyone around you. I also attended a boarding school – albeit not one in Paris, alas – so I also recognized the ways that dorm life, the sense of being together constantly with strict rules but also no parental supervision – can intensify the drama a high school relationship.

As soon as we’re out of earshot, Josh says, “Nothing like an adult to remind you that you aren’t one.”
I laugh, but as we place our drink order at the bar, our matching ginger ales make the sort-of joke feel all too real. It’s always uncomfortable to come home from school only to be faced with even fewer freedoms. The last time we were at a party, we drank champagne. We stayed out as late as we wanted. And zero family members were involved. –p. 254

Early on, I was worried that Perkins was setting up the boyfriend-is-jealous-of-the-relationship-with-the-male-best-friend angle as a major plot point, and I was poised to start disliking Josh if that turned out to be the case, but fortunately she dealt with that swiftly and awesomely within the next twenty pages. The main drama, the main conflict in the book, from some perspectives might seem to be manufactured drama. And in some ways it is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unrealistic; I absolutely believe that Isla as characterized would have exactly the kind of reactions that she does. (That doesn’t mean that their fight isn’t silly, when seen from the outside – but no more so than most seventeen-year-olds’ relationship drama is.)

So, I quite enjoyed this book. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s got some genuinely sweetly romantic parts, it’s got interesting and relatable characters, and it’s the perfect kind of light book to get absorbed in when you want to escape for a few hours to a happier place. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I don’t read a ton of contemporary YA lit, but I think Perkins’s books would appeal to anyone who likes the genre, likes real teenagers with snarky senses of humor, and likes stories with a happy but not sappy ending.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Lots of them over at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: It’s midnight, it’s sweltering, and I might be high on Vicodin, but that guy–that guy right over there–that’s him.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2014 5:11 pm

    Her books get great reviews – I need to try one soon!

    • December 7, 2014 6:51 pm

      Kathy – They’re great, light fun, good for reading when your brain is not in the mood for anything too serious.

  2. November 18, 2014 9:51 pm

    Aw, I’ve been really thinking lately that i need to read another Stephanie Perkins book. Anna and the French Kiss was such a dear book.

    • December 7, 2014 6:52 pm

      Jenny – Agreed! This one has more in common with AatFK than either of them do with the middle one (which is not set in Paris, among other things), but the characters from the first two do make cameos at the end of this one.

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