Before I begin on my review, let’s go over some pronunciation. It is eye-la not is-la for Isla. Thank you Stephanie Perkins for including this within the first 2 pages. I found it extremely helpful and I hope you do as well.
If Stephanie Perkins writes it, I will read it. I picked up Anna and the French Kiss in January of 2011 and I have been recommending Perkins and her books to anyone I can. These contemporary YA romances center around a group of teens that are in Paris at a boarding school (with the exception of Lola and Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door). The final installment in this series is Isla and the Happily Ever After. I have been waiting on this book for 3 long years! The release date was constantly pushed back and I was left in a state of despair. But finally, it arrived! Just in time for my September YA/NA Challenge.
For Lola, being in love with Josh is like breathing. It just comes naturally. Now that they are in their senior year at their boarding school in Paris, maybe they will have the opportunity to grow closer…and they do. After a chance encounter over the Summer, the two begin to admit their feelings for one another. But obstacles are always present. Factor in an annoying sister, insecurities, and political parents and it seems that the universe is pulling Lola and Josh further away from each other. Will they be able to find their way back to each other?
Though it starts out a little rough around the edges, Perkins easily finds her groove and the story comes together beautifully. Isla is definitely individual, so it does take a little bit to understand her and how she operates...which is why it took me a few characters to figure her out. All of Perkins’ characters are completely unique. No better case than Lola (love love love her!). You will not find a stereotypical character anywhere in Perkins’ novels, which is another reason why I love her writing. In Isla all the characters are their own. From Josh who wants to be a cartoonist to Kurt, who has high functioning autism. They are all distinct and I find them more loveable that way.
Another favorite aspect is Perkins’ modern take on sex. I’ve mentioned before that I believe sex should be included in YA novels as long as it is relevant to the story and the growth of the characters. In Isla the characters have been previously sexually active and there is no shame in this. Actually Isla said it best when she said, “I mean, when you grow up half French, it’s not like sex is this big taboo. And yeah, you have to be careful and you need protection and blah blah blah, but it’s not that American Puritanical be-all, end-all.” (page 95).
If you have not read Anna and the French Kiss or Lola and the Boy Next Door, then I suggest you wait on Isla and the Happily Ever After. Though Isla and the Happily Ever can stand alone, I highly suggest you read them in order. You will enjoy them more that way (in my opinion). For fans of Perkins, she wraps up the series beautifully in the ending of Isla. Also, the last paragraph in the acknowledgments is a great tribute to the fans.
Stephanie Perkins signing my books at the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans 2014. Eeek!