December 12, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

I am hard on myself. But isn’t it better to be honest about these things before someone else can use them against you? Before someone else can break your heart? Isn’t it better to break it yourself?
-from Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

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Stephanie Perkins third novel, Isla and the Happily Ever After, might just be one of the most anticipated YA releases of 2014. I was so excited for it that I specifically reserved it to read while on my honeymoon so that the wedding planning stress wouldn't take away from my experience! I'm very pleased that I did because lounging on the beach in Cancun, Mexico was just the spot to enjoy this sweet, warm and fuzzy novel that only Stephanie Perkins could have written.

This novel is the story about Isla, a senior at the American School in Paris, who readers might remember from a brief encounter in Perkins' first novel, Anna and the French Kiss. Ever since her first year in Paris, Isla has had a hopeless crush on Josh, a talented cartoon artist who is way out of her league. When Isla has a chance in encounter with Josh in Manhattan over school break, she gets the opportunity to enter his life and make their romance a reality. But with it comes all sorts of other realities for which Isla just might not be ready. 

For fans of Perkins, this novel has everything we already love and the same sharp wit and swoon-worthy-yet-realistic-romance we were counting on. Perkins proves again that regular teen crushes and ordinary teen problems are just as noteworthy to write about as anything else. What I love about Perkins is her ability to give power to such a seemingly trivial subject. It's easy to describe this book as a teen romance, but it's much more difficult to articulate the substance that's in it. 

I was probably able to relate to Isla more than any of Perkins characters because of how shy, introverted and her automatic response to do what is responsible. Like myself as a teen, Isla is highly devoted and loyal to her long-term crush and even thrives off of observing from the shadows. But when faced with the challenge of actually participating in his world, she's forced out of her comfort zone to navigate uncharted territories. While this might not be the most relatable story to others, it really was special to me so I might be biased in how much I enjoyed this novel. 

Similarly, Perkins doesn't make this just a love story. It also navigates issues with friendship, friendship alongside romance, familial issues, dealing with a significant other's family, etc. Similar to Rainbow Rowell, Perkins makes her supporting characters do more than support. They have lives of their own that affect the main characters in this book. I especially enjoyed the way Isla's autistic best friend Kurt factored into her relationship with Josh and gave it a new dynamic that brought out her need to be responsible. This challenged her need to be romantic and get what she wanted, hence depth to a superficial sounding love story. 

While I don't think the characters in Isla popped as strongly as those in Anna and Lola, I still enjoyed this book so much. Even though I related to it in a particularly specific way, I think any lover of YA romance would find other ways they can relate to this book and enjoy it just as much! And, as always, we get cameos from our favorite couples in Perkins' previous novels. Yay!

Bottom Line: If you loved Stephanie Perkins other novels, you've probably already read this one. Although, if you haven't - what are you waiting for?! This series would make a great gift for any teen girl in your life! 

1 comment:

  1. I loved Kurt!! And how he factored in to Josh and Isla's relationship made an impact on me too. This was a good choice for you to read on the beach for sure!! Glad you loved it :)


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