Review: ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ by Stephanie Perkins

Review: ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ by Stephanie PerkinsIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Published by Penguin on 2014-08-14
Format: Hardcover
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Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

So oddly enough, I read an extended preview of Isla and the Happily Ever After before I had ever read anything else in the series. It was, of course, AMAZING, so I proceeded to race through Anna and the French Kiss and then promptly devoured Lola and the Boy Next Door. I loved them both — perhaps Lola even more so than Anna (you can see my past reviews for them here and here), so I couldn’t wait for Isla to come out. 

In the meantime, my excitement and expectations for Isla and Josh’s love story kept growing at an exponential rate. If I liked Lola even better than Anna, surely Isla would be the best book in the series by far! After all, Stephanie Perkins spent at least three years writing it. I kept building up the romance in my head, until I was nearly buzzing with excitement.

And while it pains me to say it, my expectations got the better of me. Yes, I enjoyed the book, just as I did Perkins’ other books. But somehow Isla fell a little flat for me in some aspects.

From their hilarious, fated, adorable chance meeting back home in New York City over the summer, I was swooning over Josh and Isla. Everything about their chance meeting was classic Perkins — from Isla’s comical inner thoughts, to the small details about Josh that make any reader fall instantly under his spell.

Expecting more classic Perkins, I settled in for the long run as they both returned to school at SOAP after not seeing each other for the rest of the summer. Imagine my surprise when, after only a small period of stolen glances and pretend disinterest, Isla and Josh became Isla and Josh within the span of a week!

Someone call the book police — author Stephanie Perkins has been spotted speeding! (I couldn’t help myself). While getting straight to the romance is no crime — and well, it was actually quite refreshing in some aspects — it was what I was least expecting from Perkins. If I had to describe a typical Perkins romance in a few words, I would definitely say yearning, drawn-out, and slow-burning. The slow build of the romances in both Anna and Lola have become to me as being characteristic of her novels, and I just LOVE the romantic tension it produces, as I’m sure a lot of other readers do too. So I was pleasantly surprised when Isla and Josh began to date so early in the book (just under a fourth of the novel), but also a little saddened, too — I’d become attached to the classic Perkins love story.

But, never fear! There were other classic Perkins elements that warmed my heart. Josh and Isla’s (mis)adventures across Paris and Barcelona, secondary characters in the form of her best friend, Kurt, and little sister, Hattie, who spice things up, Josh’s passion for Art, and Isla’s sister troubles all fleshed out the story while reminding me of the details that really make Perkins’ books so enjoyable to me.

As I kept flipping the pages though, there was a nagging thought that I couldn’t shake even as I adored seeing Isla and Josh’s relationship grow. Who is Isla, apart form the girl who is in love with Josh? I racked my brains for things I knew about her — quiet, a middle sister, responsible, unsure of her future, and a reader of adventure tales. Though I knew some concrete facts about Isla I still couldn’t help but feel that she could be anyone; as if, in an attempt to make her relatable, Perkins gave her a very average identity (and tossed in a unique hobby) that instead made her feel ’empty’ to me. Isla is, in fact, a self-described “blank canvas.” While I understood that Isla is in her senior year and doesn’t know what she wants to so with her life, sometimes I felt like I never had a complete understanding of her at all. Or maybe I was just spoiled, coming not long off having the pleasure of reading about such a unique character as Lola.

But, aaagh! By the sounds of my review so far, you would probably think that I didn’t enjoy Isla — which isn’t true! I just think that, in all honesty, it had a few factors going against it for me personally. Not only was it impossible to really surpass my expectations for the book after reading my personal favorite of the series, Lola and the Boy Next Door, but I ended up reading Isla over a longer period of time than I usually like reading a book (college, yo!).

So to finish off my (long!) review on a happy note, I saved my favorite part of the book for last. Though the wait was long, the cameos in Isla do NOT disappoint. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that the whole gang is back and YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE IT!

Though I swooned just as hard over the romance, Isla fell short of the rest of Perkins’ books for me.


  • I’m sorry to hear the third book wasn’t as good as the other two. I do that sometimes too, get so excited for a book I think is going to be awesome only to be a bit disappointed in the end. (Blood of Olympus…) Why do authors like book characters to fall in love so quickly? I think I’d like the quirky Lola the best too.
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    • I was sadly, a victim of my own hype-monster. I tired so hard to avoid looking at reviews of Isla beforehand, just because I knew this would be the type of book that outside influences could destroy my own perception. But the whole blogosphere was so excited for Isla that it was hard not to get my hopes up so high!

      It was a rather whirlwind-like romance, and I definitely missed the tension of the pre-dating stage.

      Ahh, Lola is awesome! She’s not afraid to be herself, and she’s quite the character. If you haven’t read the books, I’d at least suggest you read Lola (but let’s be honest, you should read Anna too just for the sake of it).

  • […] Stephanie Perkins’ writing that had links to a Goodreads preview of the first 3 chapters of Isla and the Happily Ever After. After hearing for so long about Perkins’ books, I decided what the heck, why not? and […]

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