Stephanie Perkins is really good at making me cry. Isla and the Happily Ever After is the third book in what could be called a series of beautiful love stories. Perkins writes young love, but she does it right. She makes it feel poignant, true, and incredibly real. She just perfectly encapsulates the essence of love. I don’t even quite understand how she does it, but the situations her characters get in, the way they react, the way they feel and internalize: it is the most honest rendering of what it feels like to fall in love and be in love. It’s so refreshing.
The two books preceding this one are Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. All three books take place within the same universe and there is overlap with the characters. I would say the third book ties everything together quite nicely.
Of all the characters Perkins has written, Isla is the most passive. She is a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. She doubts herself, but she wants so much. Her anxieties, low self-esteem, and very palpable fears are very real hurdles for so many girls in general, never mind teenagers. I definitely identified with the feeling of not feeling good enough for anyone or anything, not even the life you’ve been leading. The story explores her relationship with the cartoonist Josh at the American boarding school in Paris, which also happened to be the setting of Anna. The novel has a lovely circular quality as it brings everything back to where it began. It has plenty of lighthearted, beautiful moments but also delves into some pretty devastating dark spots. The problems Josh and Isla face get pretty emotionally heavy.
As a story about falling in love with a cartoonist, I got this book on a very personal level (being in love with a cartoonist myself). It has loads of fun comics nuggets for those interested in that sort of thing. I really enjoyed the book. It is a fun read, even when you are sobbing because love is just so damn beautiful. All three books are wonderful tales of romance. I highly recommend them.
Until next time!