Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

isla.jpgFrom 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.*

This was by far my favorite book of the series. I was a little worried that it would be like the other two in the sense that it would take the majority of the book for the two characters to find their way to each other, but Stephanie Perkins took the story an entirely different route, which was refreshing. It really made it feel like I wasn’t just reading the first two stories over, and I was again impressed with the way she is able to make the stories so distinct and unique while at the same time weaving them all together.

Isla and Josh recognize their feelings for each other relatively early on in the book, so rather than having many obstacles keeping them apart as with the couples in ANNA and LOLA, Stephanie opted to allow readers to see the blossoming journey of their relationship. We get to see the ways in which they are compatible and the areas in which they perhaps have to make some sacrifices to accommodate the other person; we get to see every aspect of this relationship, from the lovestruck feeling that makes them incapable of keeping their hands off each other to the heartache caused by words thrown too carelessly in the heat of the moment. Both the characters and their interactions with one another are extremely realistic, which is one of my favorite aspects of all of Stephanie Perkins’s books.

Like Lola, Isla has to learn to understand and accept who she is without berating herself for who she is not. Stephanie does a wonderful job of portraying why it is so imperative to love and accept oneself before entering into a relationship, and certainly gave me a lot to think about as I move forward in my own life. There are also family issues, as in the first two books, though I don’t feel like they were dealt with as thoroughly as in the other stories.

ISLA also contains an autistic character and I found his presence extremely refreshing. He was the only person who was willing to tell others exactly how he felt and though it sometimes led to hurt feelings, there was no chance of miscommunication and the people around him came to accept him for who he was rather than writing him off as rude or handicapped. While it would have been nicer to see people react more kindly toward him from the start, the fact that this didn’t happen provides readers with hope that people can change their minds and their attitudes rather than remaining ignorant.

This review is much shorter than the other two because if I make it much longer I’ll only end up repeating what I said about ANNA and LOLA–the descriptions of the settings are breathtaking and true to reality, the appearances made by characters from the previous two books are perfectly incorporated into the story being told in this book, and I cried *a lot* while reading it. I actually cried more during this book than the other two books combined and had a mini anxiety attack that lasted about 60 very hastily turned pages.

I highly recommend this book to adults and young adults alike. You will get swept away in the authentic romance, the urban backdrops, and the beauty that love allows us to see both in ourselves and the world around us; you won’t want to put this one down until you’ve finished the very last page.

*Cover image and synopsis are from Amazon.com.

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