Isla and the Happily Ever After was one of my most highly-anticipated novels of the year. Anna and the French Kiss is still one of my absolute favourite books and I read it for the third time this year. Did Isla beat Anna? No, but I did prefer it to Lola, and yet it made me appreciate certain aspects of Lola – such as seeing the familiar characters from a different point of view – a little more than I did before. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In Isla and the Happily Ever After, we finally get to know the shy, quiet girl who we only briefly came across in Anna and the French Kiss, but who we knew had a crush on Josh Wasserstein. But I didn’t expect her to have such strong, intense emotions. I made the same mistake so many people do about shy people. As another shy, quiet girl, I do know what it’s like for people to look at you and think you have nothing substantial to offer, and so I actually really loved getting to see the different perceptions of Isla. And boy was this story intense.
Should Isla and Josh be together? It’s something you’ll be wondering throughout the story. At times, their relationship is adorable, sweet, and you can’t help feel that their teenagerdom is restricting them from being in a proper relationship. As a non-teenager, I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. I do not need to ask my parents for permission, and Isla does remind you what it’s like to be a teenager and not have that luxury. But at other times, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was so intense that Josh and Isla were actually in a toxic relationship, like those couples who couldn’t keep away from each other at university, but now are no longer together while the ones who could quite happily not call each other every single day are still together.
Isla and the Happily Ever After is enjoyable because, like the previous two books, you can understand why they want to be together. It doesn’t simply come out of no where, and so I love that Stephanie Perkins has written about three completely different kinds of relationships, each with their own highs and lows. Even though I wasn’t completely sure whether Isla and Josh should be in a relationship, I still wanted to fight for them – especially when pesky teachers and parents became involved! It was fun getting to see their relationship develop outside of the boarding school setting, surprisingly, when they were in New York City and Barcelona. I also grew to enjoy the cameos from Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, which I wasn’t completely sure about in Lola. I said they felt like different characters, and yet in Isla I came to feel like perhaps that’s the point. We’re just seeing one perception of people all the time and it was refreshing to think, actually, is the way we see people actually the way they really are? And like most fans, I did rather enjoy that ending!
Isla and the Happily Ever marks the end of four years of young adult contemporary romance from Stephanie Perkins (although we still have her short story in My True Love Gave to Me, which will be my Christmas read), and it ended on a good note. I’m looking forward to seeing what else she can offer in her next book, a young adult horror novel!
Published: 14th August 2014
Publisher: Dutton (US) Usborne (UK