The reason I’m writing this post literally minutes after my post on Lola and the Boy Next Door is because I don’t want to delay my thoughts on this adorable book for another 518 days like I did with the last one. Isla and the Happily Ever After is the end of Stephanie Perkins wildly successful YA romance trilogy, and quite possibly my favourite of the lot.
Isla Martin has been in love with Joshua Wasserstein since she first saw him in ninth grade, but between Isla’s shyness and Josh’s misunderstanding of her relationship with her best friend Kurt, the two never managed to get on the same page. Suddenly it’s senior year, and these bicultural New Yorker/Parisians have started to figure things out, maybe a bit too late.
Isla is portrayed as a hot nerd, an exceptionally bright student with an autistic best friend, a voracious reader of adventure books and a teenager with no clue about what to pursue as a career. In contrast, Josh is supposed to be a tortured artist-cum-bad boy, at least as ‘tortured’ and as ‘bad’ as heroes can be in a Stephanie Perkins novel. He has a tattoo. He skips class by making up Jewish holidays. And the only reason he doesn’t get the highest grades in his class is because he doesn’t care. He is, however, an exceptional graphic artist and some of my favourite (and hottest) scenes from the book involve Josh and his art.
When they finally admit their attraction and begin to fall in love, Isla finds herself doing things that are out of character. She is studying less, spending less time with Kurt, and making choices that she’s not sure her parents would approve of. When she opts to sneak away from Paris with Josh for the weekend, she’s scandalized by doing something illicit, yet so delighted to have Josh all to herself. Of course, they get caught, and the consequences are dire.
But unlike Anna and Lola, which were all about the chracters overcoming their issues and finding each other, Isla tackles the question of what happens after you do get together. Can you live happily ever after if you think you don’t deserve it? It is the story of two teenagers who fall in love really hard and fast and then have to deal with the repercussions of “meant to be.”
This book is ridiculously sweet. It captures all of the things about teen love that I remember fondly: loving from afar, the intensity of teenage love affairs, the passion of the anger, the drama. Isla is a wonderfully complex character, with smarts and insecurities and charm. Josh is a dreamboat of a boy, full of rebellion and art and moods. They have wonderful chemistry and their relationship doesn’t shoot off like a gun, it’s a charming slow build that captures all of the things I remember with affection about being a teenager.
Two other reasons for Isla being my favourite book was because all the characters from Anna and Lola came together in the end and had a truly heartwarming scene. Possibly my favourite in the whole series. Also, it was really refreshing to see Josh and Isla’s relationship develop outside their boarding school, in Manhattan and Barcelona. Especially Barcelona.
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 nowhere, and so I love that Stephanie Perkins has written about three completely different kinds of relationships, each with their own highs and lows. It was the perfect end for an amazingly sweet trilogy.