Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #92: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #92: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie PerkinsIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Published by Dutton Juvenile on August 14, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 339
Format: ARC
Source: Borrowed
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Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Recommended by: The fact that people told me to start this series and my desire to finish more series this year.

My persistence with Stephanie Perkins totally paid off. I was so afraid I would be the black sheep on everything, but apparently Anna and the French Kiss is the only one for which I have mixed feelings. Lola and the Boy Next Door was adorbs in so many ways. Isla and the French Kiss was the perfect fluffiness and purest pain pretty much the whole way through. I’m hard-pressed to say which one was my favorite, because Isla definitely gave me the most emotions but I actually think Lola was a better novel. Make of this what you will.

Isla’s narrative voice was one of those that captured me immediately. Though she’s probably the least overtly vivacious of Perkins’ heroines, underneath Isla’s as lively as any of them. Not only is Isla shy but she’s introverted. Part of her journey is the realization that it might not hurt to let a couple more people in because friendship is really nice. As an introvert, much as you love your closest friends, it’s sometimes hard to find the motivation to try to make more friends, but that can really screw you over if your friends move or there’s drama or something. Much like Cath of Fangirl, I suspect some extroverts may have trouble relating to some of Isla’s choices, but I totally felt along with her the whole way.

As I mentioned in my post on instalove on Thursday, I do think that Josh and Isla are a case of instalove, BUT I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Josh and Isla fall in love over the course of about a month, which is pretty quick but not necessarily instalove levels. However, both swear they’ve been in love from the very beginning which is instalove and, likely, retconning. Despite the fact that I’ve been pretty vocal about my abhorrence for instalove, Perkins has done it right.

With Josh and Isla, I can see their connection unfolding and I can feel the passion they have for one another. In this case, I actually think these two crazy kids stand a chance of lasting, perhaps not forever but for a good while. They are one of the cutest couples. In fact, they would be nauseatingly sincere were it not for their awkward moments and light banter. Perkins strikes the balance between these things perfectly, so that even a grump like me can read Isla and be charmed rather than annoyed. Either that or I’m softening in my old age (I’m 27 now, guys, so maybe I’m different).

The other aspect of the instalove between Josh and Isla that makes it work in this instance is that you see them having to adjust. They were in love with what they knew initially for sure, but what they’d previously observed wasn’t the whole person. Isla didn’t know Josh’s past or he Isla’s. They were in love with the surface-level things and they need to deal with the rest. Everything is not perfect between Josh and Isla. They have issues they have to work through. I like how Perkins shows that they’re in love but that have to get to know each other and that the instalove might not be enough. It also helps, I think, that they’ve both been in relationships before and have something to compare their current feelings to.

Actually, I love books about characters that get together at the beginning because it happens so rarely. Much as I love my genderbending and hate to love romance tropes, they tend to have the couple getting together at the very end and you never really get to see them together and dealing with the reality and difficulties of an actual relationship. Though it might seem highly dramatic, it’s wonderful to watch Josh and Isla work through her insecurities in the relationship and the trouble that Josh’s past causes logistically. The barriers to their relationship are largely internal and all completely believable.

On top of the romance, I loved the lessons about friendship wholeheartedly. It’s highly powerful that Isla’s just about as jealous of Josh’s friend group as she is of his relationship with Rashmi. I love Isla so much for her friendship with Kurt and how much she values it. I love too that Perkins made Kurt a real, non-stereotypical character. Watching Isla’s relationship with her sister Hattie grow gave me all the feels, as did her discussion with Sanjita, though those feels were bittersweet. The romance is the main part of the book, but the bits about friends and family are strong and touching. They give the book additional depth and power.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of the last four chapters or so of the book. I thought I would be rating Isla and the Happily Ever After five stars, but then the ending happened. I’m going to have to go into spoiler tags for details, but the short version is that it’s cheesy and feels imbalanced, losing the awkwardness and banter and going full-on schmaltz. View Spoiler » So yeah, the ending was upsetting. However the rest was all so good that I’m going to try to forgive the book for that.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is where the adorable and sexy and painful feels live. It’s the best example of instalove in contemporary YA perhaps. It’s also a bit obnoxious at the end, but, hey, nobody’s perfect.

Favorite Quote:

How does one proceed in a situation like this? If only the discovery of mutual admiration could lead promptly into making out. If only I could say, “Listen. I like you, and you like me, so let’s go find a secluded park and touch each other.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif cheese gif perfection

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