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

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie PerkinsThere is a Curse of the Trilogy. Sometimes, the middle book serves only as a bridge from the first book to the third. It’s full of explanations and set up, but not much happens. Then there’s the Burn-Out; by the time the author gets to the last one, they have obviously given up on the series and are So. Ready. To. Move. On.

I wondered why it took so long for this third of a companion series to show. Usually there’s a book published every year, like clockwork, so that the reader has a somewhat reasonable amount of time to wait but doesn’t stray to another series, lost forever.

Well, whatever happened with Isla, I am glad it took longer to come out. Whether or not it was the case, it appears that extra care was taken by the author and publisher to make sure that this last of a beloved series was up to par with the first two. And it is.

Briefly: Isla (pronounced “EYE-la,” in case you were wondering) is a New York City girl who goes to high school, at the School of America in Paris (a recurring theme in this trilogy). She and her best friend, Kurt, have known each other from childhood and have been in Paris together since Freshman Year. Kurt knows of her long-standing crush on a classmate, Josh, but Josh has dated the same girl just about the entire time he’s been at the school. So, the crush, was very unrequited.

Josh is from New York, too, so he and Isla cross paths in the summer at a café, right after Isla has had her wisdom teeth out. A little less shy while on painkillers, she finally has the nerve to speak to – and even flirt – with Josh. It didn’t hurt that he and his girlfriend broke up at the end of the previous school year when she graduated.

Once they return to school, they seem to go their separate ways. Josh has the reputation as being a slacker, since he’s constantly late to class (if he comes at all) and doesn’t seem interested in doing his homework. But Isla knows better. Josh’s focus is completely taken up with his drawings, and he’s the best at their school. Supposedly, he’s writing a graphic novel about his life, and his cartoony style will be the perfect complement.

As they get to know each other, Isla is constantly worried about her best friend. Kurt is becoming more rigid and upset the more Josh hangs around. His awkward manner and constant need for routine is being challenged unknowingly by Josh. Isla is trying her best to keep both happy, though there seems to be something else to Josh’s undercurrent of unhappiness. His Senator father and mother seem to have a distance that’s more than just the miles from Paris to New York. And when Isla’s critique of Josh’s graphic novel is not received well, could that be the end of their relationship?

Didja Like It?: The storylines throughout this trilogy are variations of the same theme ([WARNING: what follows is a spoiler of sorts, if you haven’t read any of the trilogy] girl likes boy, then they like each other; something happens to test their relationship; will test make them stronger and they get back together?), so I wondered how the bones would be held together in this particular novel. If you are a reader who likes romance that means something, that is worked hard for, that feels real, you know it’s the muscles, organs, skin on those bones that’s important. Themes are universal; it’s how they are  dressed up and presented that give us the fresh, new story.

The tale starts typically enough, but the laissez-faire behavior of Josh, the people-pleasing nature of Isla and Kurt’s stringent style are added to the mix, along with Isla’s young sister Hattie, a troublemaker who has just started at the school. But influence is a theme as well: is it good? Bad? Necessary sometimes to shake us into action? Do we sometimes need to take a step back?

Anything Else to Mention?: Yes, I will miss this series. I have loved the overlapping of characters (who doesn’t want to know how their favorite people are doing?), the Parisian backdrop, the struggles, the maturing, the heart and soul of these stories. But I can guess that Ms. Perkins has plenty more where those came from, and I am really looking forward to reading them, too.

To Read or Not To Read: Absolutely. But if you haven’t read the series from the beginning, treat yourself and start at the first.

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3) by Stephanie Perkins was published August 14, 2014 by Dutton. Ink and Page picked this book up from the library of her own free will.

Rating: 4

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction Romance Companion Series
Ages: 13 and up
You Might Want to Know: Some mature themes, language

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