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
AmazonBarnes & Noble
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.

Review: ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’ by Stephanie Perkins

Review: ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’ by Stephanie PerkinsLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Series: (Anna and the French Kiss #2)
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Published by Penguin on 2011-09-29
Format: Hardcover
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion...she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit—more sparkly, more fun, more wild—the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket—a gifted inventor—steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

This. Book. *Sigh*

Guys, this book was ADORABLE. It was everything I expected in a Stephanie Perkins book, and even more. I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it going in because of all the differences from Anna and the French Kiss (not set in SOAP or even abroad or at a boarding school? The tears!), but I came to love Lola all the more for these differences! 

Though San Fran is no Paris, I really did like the setting of Lola. I love hearing about the crazy neighbors in Lola’s neighborhood full of candy-colored victorian houses, getting to know the places she frequents in the area (like the neighborhood playground where you can sled down the grass on pizza boxes), and just the general sense of home. SOAP is a pretty awesome place, but it was great to get to know a place where a character has lived for a while, and hearing all the memories associated with it. 


Anna’s dad rocks.

And unlike in Anna, we really get the chance to know Lola’s parents — and they’re absolutely awesome! They chat with her, encourage her to be herself, and even defend her against snooty customers (you’ll love it). It’s always great to read a YA book with a supportive family, and her parents become even more important to her whenever she is dealing with her often-difficult birth mother. And because I picked up this book wanting a light contemporary, I was glad that Lola’s adoption didn’t overwhelm the plot, and it instead added a bit of depth.

But what have I been rambling on about for so long? THIS IS A PERKINS BOOK, LET’S GET TO THE BOYS! (*ahem* Sorry.) Ya know, I think I found something on the book’s Goodreads page that sums it up perfectly. It’s from Rainbow Rowell’s review of the book:

Stephanie Perkins writes excellent boys. Girls, too — but ESPECIALLY boys. They feel specific. Like real people, not shapeless dream things.

I REALLY wish I had the book now, but I checked out a library copy. But if I did have it, I would take out an excerpt where Lola is describing Cricket’s hands. Yes, his hands. His beautiful, caring, meticulous, and ingenious hands. Hands that create Rube Goldbergs just to do simple tasks, or that build a transport system between their two houses to carry notes and things. Hands that always have reminders written on them, from buy eggs to seize the day. Yes, I’ll admit it: I fell in love with the boy’s hands.


Well said.

So, needless to say, Cricket Bell is intoxicatingly amazing. Perkins writes him so well, giving him such a caring personality, but also making him capable of mistakes. Lola and his love story is not a simple one — in fact, it’s kinda messy — but it’s a lovely one that you’ll just have to read.

But what bugged me about the book towards the end was one little bone I had to pick with Lola. Just like Anna, Lola seems to have a hamartia — a fatal flaw (hehe, a TFIOS reference!). Though she comes to realize her feelings for someone else, she just can’t seem to bring herself to break off her current relationship, and of course is essentially emotionally cheating on her boyfriend. It seems all to obvious to me that this is just a plot ploy on Perkins’ part to keep the story going in a certain direction, but it drives me crazy that Lola can’t just wake up and do what’s right, when it’s all too evident. (*Throws hands up in air in disgust*)

All that’s left to discuss is one of my FAVORITE parts of the book — its companionship! Being the second in a loosely-constructed ‘series’, two characters from Anna appear in Lola — St. Clair, and of course, Anna. Lola happens to work at the movie theater that Anna works in, and Cricket knows St. Clair from Berkeley, where they go to school together. Let me just say that any part with Anna or more likely St. Clair had me fangirling TO THE MAX. Anna lovers, take note: if anything else, read this book just for these parts (though the rest is spectacular as well). Not only are Anna/St.Clair parts often swoon-worthy, but they usually served a useful purpose in the book. Now, please leave me be to mentally prepare Anna and Étienne’s wedding…

Absolutely gobbled this book up. Perkins fans will approve.


Double Review: ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ by Stephanie Perkins

Double Review: ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd on 2010-01-01
Format: Hardcover
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she's less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he's taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's waiting for?

So I just got around to reading this, after hearing so much buzz around the book because Stephanie Perkins’ Isla and the Happily Ever After comes out on the 14th of this month.  Because I know that Anna and the French Kiss is already an established favorite around the blogosphere, I thought I’d switch things up a little and do a double review with my sister, Renee!


My sister Renee!

Renee is going off to college in SoCal with me this fall, and she’s been learning a little French this summer so that she won’t be too lost in French I! She’s also looking at being a potential European Studies major (so this book is perfect for her!). She really likes crêpes and wants to taste her first macaron in France. Renee actually read Anna and the French Kiss before I did and recommended it to me.

So here we go!

Each of us will be sharing our thoughts on a part of the book. Renee will be in purple, and I (Lina) will be in turquoise.

9707c2b81337054bd6eb9b5abbbd103c(On the MC, Anna)

Lina: There were times when I was slightly frustrated with Anna — her lower self-esteem, her negative reaction to change, her troubles with understanding relationships — but she works through them. There was true character development here. And Anna’s not as completely quiet and passive as she first seems…she’s got some surprises up her sleeves. And did I mention she’s also a blogger? *cue happy dance*

Renee: I thought she was a little self-centered because she couldn’t see any of the good parts about being sent to Paris, only the bad parts. She could be a bit clueless at times because she couldn’t see that St. Clair obviously loved her (and how could she not know about Paris being the movie capital of the world? Her movie review blog was titled Femme Film Freak, for goodness sakes!). But I related to her because she had never been to a boarding school or away from home before, and how she reacted felt realistic and I can imagine going off to college will feel the same way. I liked how she grew as a person through the book and became more independent — it’s encouraging to see that.

c6abeb4ba8c74e06092c1a535c4d46ab(On  Anna and Étienne as a couple)

Lina: Anna and Étienne make an amazing couple. Though I realize they stay ‘just friends’ for so long because of other circumstances, it’s great how much of their relationship is based in a strong friendship. They know each other so well, and their inside jokes and teasing, etc. never felt like it was forced or simply the next step in ‘getting the girl’ or anything. Maybe it’s Anna’s lack of close friends (I was never really feeling Bridget, Mer, or Rashmi), but her and Étienne are the BEST of friends. Confiding in each other, doing things for each other, being there…the whole nine yards. And at the same time, it was never awkward for such good friends to want to be together (Anna shared her secret desires well enough with the reader, haha). Well done, Stephanie Perkins!

Renee: Who wouldn’t want a British boy at a Paris boarding school falling in love with you? That’s my secret dream! I could read about that forever — but is it realistic? To me, Étienne seemed way to obvious with his feelings, and I don’t know how true to life that was. Buuut the awkward pauses and back-and-forth questioning of feeling seemed pretty real to me. He’s everything you’d want in a guy (except for the shortness…because who really wants a short guy?), even charismatic — it’s always so charming and nice to see when a guy can relate to others so well, and it’s pretty hot. Étienne was parfait (perfect).


Josh and Rashmi, Anna and Étienne, and Mer.

(On the secondary characters)

Lina: I do feel like the secondary characters were often mentioned — as if the author made sure to not forget about them — but still not that well fleshed-out. I only got a rough feel for Anna’s friends and family. But hey, that’s what the companion novels are for, non? I’m personally SUPER excited to see Isla and Josh.

Renee: The book described them as the ‘artsy’ crowd, and I was worried that they’d be a very typical artsy clique, but each of them had their own little quirks and broke the mold. Mer was sporty and tall, Rashmi had a unique personality… it was fun to get to know Anna’s whole friend circle. It felt like the reader was a part of it, even with their ups and downs.


The City of Lights!

(On the setting)

Lina: Ah, Paris! It was perfectly presented to the reader. It was never overwhelming, but it was always there. The baguettes, the macarons, the famous cathedrals, the fetching young Parisians…Perkins really gave the sense of a foreign country that was maybe not so foreign. As Anna began exploring Paris, the reader too sees it as conquerable and exciting.

Renee: I have always dreamed of going to boarding school! Now that dream has passed me by, but at least I can read about it! The school seemed really realistic — while it had its beautiful lobbies and dining hall, it was still like a typical school with its not-so-enticing dorms and desks. But I wouldn’t really care what my dorm would look like, because it would still be in PARIS! It was nice that Stephanie Perkins included little details that really made the reader feel like they were in Paris with Anna — the opera singer across the street, the cinema owner and his little dog, Anna and her friends’ outings to pâtisseries and cafés, and even riding the métro. When Anna was home on break, she realized how much she missed Paris and how she felt Parisian. Why can’t that be me?

d2fbcfe424b2be74d4f90f39f95bdb3d(On our overall thoughts)

Lina: While there wasn’t any sort of weird pacing in this book to speak of (thank goodness!), I really feel that the later half made this book stand out to me. The first half or so felt very typical, very predictable, but it was the second (and more trouble-filled) part that really proved to me who Anna and Étienne were, stayed true to their characters, and deviated from the norm. I don’t feel that these two parts were unreconcilable; rather, they fit well together and there was a lot of character growth and maturing done. By the end of the book, I knew Anna and Étienne’s love story would be one I’d remember and cherish. <3

Renee: I thought it was really funny and well written because of the attention to detail and how well the reader felt they knew all the characters. Even minor characters like her allergenic brother and not-so-lucid grandma gave so much humor to the story. The plot is unbeatable — who wouldn’t want to read about a boy and girl falling in love in Paris? I’d recommend it to anyone, because there’s so many things to love about it!

Well, there you have it!

If you liked the images I included in this post, check out my Pinterest board for Anna and the French Kiss!

Have you read Anna and the French Kiss? What did you think of it? Burning thoughts on Étienne you need to share? Any questions or crêpes for Renee?