Friday, August 29, 2014

Maddy's Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Contemporary Realistic YA
Publisher: Dutton
Length: 339 pages
Original Publishing Date: August 14, 2014
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Where I got it: Powell's Books
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
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.

I love this book. I know I say that about almost every book I read, but this time feels different. Stephanie Perkins has proven herself time and time again to be a great romantic writer. Her first two books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door (which form a loose trilogy with Isla) are total proof of that. Sometimes writers tend to write “forbidden romance”, where the two main characters cannot get together because of something standing in their way. Perkins first two books brought fresh perspective to the “forbidden romance” idea, and her third book surprisingly takes a different spin on contemporary YA romance. 

 The character of Isla is very adeptly written. She could have very easily have fallen into a Manic-Pixie Dream Girl cliché, but she instead defies stereotypes while still dealing with the fact that she doubts herself and her future. She sees herself as a blank canvas often in the story, and while I normally love when the heroines have a strong sense of self, Isla was incredibly sympathetic and human. Every part of this story felt honest. Even when I felt like the characters were making some of the wrong decisions, I couldn’t help but see the situation from their side. I felt like this book really captured a lot of the feelings that are present in real life, but may not be portrayed in books. Often in contemporary YA, the main characters don’t get together until the end of the book. However, in Isla, (spoilers) the characters get together relatively early, and the book details the ups and downs of their relationship. It still manages to be cute and wonderful even without the “forbidden romance” element. Although I have to say that this book got a lot racier than Perkins’ previous novels. I, uh, don’t know what to say about that besides the fact that if I had read this book like four years ago, I would have been totally scandalized. I was pretty sheltered. Anyway, moving on… 

I really enjoyed reading Isla’s progression as well as Josh’s. It was sweet and interesting, and I honestly could not put this book down. Ah, and Josh was the perfect male love interest. He was adorable. Also I loved the little cameos from Perkins’ previous books, which didn’t feel too forced. They definitely weren’t in it enough that people who hadn’t read the other books would be lost, but it had some definite spoilers if anyone wanted to read Perkins’ other books as well, which I definitely recommend. Isla felt like a great end to this loose trilogy, but most importantly, I think it’s a great book on its own. I definitely recommend this book to everyone who loves contemporary realistic YA, or even people who haven’t yet been sold on realistic YA. I’m probably going to read it like five more times this summer, let’s be honest. Just sayin’.

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