Isla and the Happily Ever After is the newly-released third installment in Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss YA romance pseudo-series (following Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door). While this probably isn’t the series’ strongest installment, it delivers another dose of Perkins’ sweet, modern fairy-tale style romance, and gives fans of Lola and Anna another peak at characters they’ve come to love.
Isla Martin’s had a crush on the brooding cartoonist Josh since they were both freshman. A chance meeting in Manhattan in the summer before their senior year begins to finally bring them together, but once back at school they face the challenges that every couple at the end of high school faces from maintaining friendships to facing time apart.
Stephanie Perkins’ books are just too much fun to miss. Her characters are bright and memorable; quirky and flawed too. Isla’s a bit of a classic basket-case bookworm; with her unrequited romance, distinct middle-child syndrome, and the dichotomy of her fear of the unknown and love of adventure stories. Josh is a well-constructed character as well, if a bit more of a stereotype. Brooding, artistic, and rebellious, redeemed by his deep instrospective thinking and love and respect for Isla. He’s not completely without personality, and I enjoyed reading him, but he did fall a bit flat to me. The supporting cast: Kurt, Isla’s strictly platonic, socially awkward friend, Isla’s sisters Hattie and Gen, were all delightful individuals, both supporting and complicating the central romantic relationship in realistically complex ways. Kurt and Isla’s relationship was a highlight as a boy-girl friendship with absolutely zero romantic tension, and an accurate portrayal of the strain a romance can put on a close friendship.
Isla and Josh fall in love over the course of a belivable set of events that take up nearly half of the book, which is nice. We get introduced to them this way, and as such we get to see what attracts them to each other. The timeline within the story for this falling-in-love arc did feel a bit squished, however, happening within just a month. The push and pull of external and internal pressure on the relationship was realistic, though it was also a bit rushed and compressed at the end as well. The story did all flow well together, and was easy to get immersed in, it just felt a touch too short in certain areas.
The main characters of the other two books, Anna, Etienne, Lola, and Cricket, make cameo appearances in the climactic scenes of this book. It was fun to see the series tie together, to wrap everything up with big, bright, shiny bow. This book, like those, is all feel-good, lovey-dovey fun. I wouldn’t miss it, unless you don’t like being happy or something