Source: Pre-ordered from Mabel’s Fables in Toronto
Publication date: August 14, 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.
This review is a bit of a comparison between Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door – there might be some gentle spoilers for Lola and Anna here, so if you haven’t read them and you’re deathly afraid of being spoiled, please skip to my final thoughts!
Here’s what you need to know about Isla: this is a different sort of story from Anna and Lola. While those two were mainly unrequited love stories, Isla is a full-fledged couple-y story. Where Anna and Lola are strong personalities, Isla is shy and unassuming. And where Anna and Lola are confident, Isla is uncertain.
Both Anna and Lola had a fantastical quality to them – Anna was just learning about Paris in her book, so the city became the landscape for her romance. And being a film buff, her story had a bit of a cinematic quality, culminating in a perfect moment. Lola’s life, meanwhile, was a sweet, adorable fairytale, with her love for colour, her picture-perfect house, her dreaming out the window at the moon, and yes, the magic of falling in love with the boy next door.
Isla, though, is a realist – both the book and the person. She’s a city girl who grew up in both New York and Paris, and she immediately tells you that the School of America in Paris is only for people who are pretty well off. As soon as you get that sentence from her, you know that this is going to be a different kind of book.
For me, Isla was the most difficult to get to know of the three characters – but also, the most real. She really reminded me of myself at her age: she’s a bookish nerd, a bit shy, with a love of fashion, and a real drive to be the best student in her class. She’s not the most popular girl, but she has friends and family around her that she really loves. With Anna and Lola, I loved them immediately, but they were both kind of loners. Like me, and like most people I know, Isla brings with her all the baggage of family, friends, and past lovers.
Isla is also, unlike Anna and Lola, totally unsure of what she wants out of life, and that lack of a goal plays strongly in how she and the book develop. In fact, I didn’t feel like I fully knew Isla until about two-thirds of the way into the book, and I know that was a deliberate choice on Stephanie Perkins’ part. If you feel this, PLEASE KEEP READING, because the book is worth it, and I think a lot of girls will see themselves in Isla.
Josh, too, is much more of a realist than either St. Clair or Cricket. With St. Clair, I always felt like he was larger than life, but tempered that a bit because of his (sigh!) love for Anna. Cricket, like Lola, sort of floated around in a dream world, where he could make automatons that amazed and delighted.
When we meet Josh for the first time in this book, he’s not in the greatest state. All of his friends have graduated and he’s depressed and lonely. And the book goes much more into his problems in school.
This is the book in the trilogy where external forces – and people – encroach the most into the characters’ lives. Because Josh and Isla seem like opposites, despite Isla’s insane crush on him. Josh is seen as a slacker, and Isla is the top student in her class. Josh is from a political family where he is the only child and his parents seem to have little time for him, and Isla has a loving family, and a boy best friend.
All of these things play into the romance between them, and it’s beautiful and heart-rending to see how they wrap themselves around Isla and Josh, who WANT to have a fairytale romance, but who find that they can’t always achieve that perfection.
Don’t get me wrong, the romance is no less lush than in the first two books. You will feel all the feels, I promise! But Isla and Josh’s story feels so grounded in reality to me – we don’t just get to see them get together, we see them come together, how their friends and schoolmates react, and how their own foibles and insecurities play into their lives. Their issues were ones that I experienced in my first big relationship, and I’m really grateful for that portrayal of how relationships can sometimes be.
I’m being very vague, but what I most want to say is that I really applaud Stephanie Perkins for taking on a different kind of love story, and I’m glad to say that the final book in this trilogy warms my heart, but also feels very close to my heart.
|From Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat|
Les Bandes Dessinees and Art: Josh is a comic artist, as you probably knew from Anna, and he and Isla share an admiration for French comics. It’s really cool to see how Perkins brings alive that love of this art form.
I Want To Go To There: I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s quite a bit of travel in this book, and one particular trip that is VERY memorable. Something I noticed much more in this book than the last two was just how great Perkins is at travel writing – her descriptions of places had me enthralled.
The Giggles: Like Anna and Lola, there are some seriously funny bits in this book. Stephanie Perkins is a master at banter and witty comebacks and I totally laughed out loud a few times.
Cameos: I can’t say anything more, but my heart may have swelled a few times…
Heart-Squeezing Romance: I mean, come on. This is Stephanie Perkins, guys!
The Final Word:
Isla and the Happily Ever After is like me and my favourite bookish people – she and the book are a little shy, and it takes awhile to warm up to her/them. But don’t be put off by this. The romance is delicious, but what’s even more wonderful is discovering Isla slowly. She has a lot to offer – as a character, AND as a book. Once you do know her, I think you’ll adore her, and I think you’ll see how nicely she fits into this YA trilogy. Stephanie Perkins was already an auto-buy and favourite author for me, and I’m very sad that this is the end, but man, what a beautiful ending.
ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER came out on August 14th! Have you read it yet? Did you read and love Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door? Are you as sad as I am that this trilogy is over? Let me know in the comments and check out my giveaway of an ANNA-LOLA-ISLA tote below!
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|I stole this image from Stephanie Perkins – I hope she doesn’t mind!|