Thursday, August 21, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Summary (from Goodreads):
From 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 √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.
I have waited so long for this book (and I know I’m not the only one to say this, and I know why it took so long). But, man, I pretty much screeched with joy the moment I found this on my doorstep. It has been some time since I have read a Stephanie Perkins novel and I while I knew there was a reason for my screeching excitement, I guess I have forgotten the extent of awesome that is this author. The book was so good, it was a shock to my system. I had guests over this weekend, and I took this book with me everywhere we went (which usually worked cause mostly we went to the beach). And I stayed up past 3 am finishing it. 
This is my favorite book by Perkins so far. The NYC and Paris, France settings were so real. This book makes my need to visit Paris so much stronger than it ever has been. There’s also something so romantic about teens falling in love there. The late-night walks, the history, the art, the fashion, and the food all play a lovely, panoramic backdrop to everything.
Also, everything just felt so real, so believable. Perkins has this magical ability to capture all of the self-doubt, all of the fear, and all of the unknown of being a teenager, and she mixes this with all the magic, learning, and growing that accompanies any good coming of age story. Who hasn’t had a crush like Isla had? I loved Isla. I loved her principles and how she wouldn’t tolerate anyone who couldn’t demonstrate kindness to her friend. I loved that she knew she was flawed, and was willing to learn from mistakes. And most of all I loved how lost she felt. She never knew if she belonged in Paris or NYC. She didn’t know what she wanted to study or where she really wanted to go to college. I loved that there was just so much she didn’t know.
And then there’s Josh, the one left behind by all his older friends. I loved how smart he was. He was fluent in French, and loved to read French graphic novels. I loved that he was creating his autobiographical graphic novel (that had nothing to do with school). I liked how he slowly got Isla out of her comfort bubble and got her to go on adventures outside of the books she was reading.
Their fights and their “bad parts” were so real to me. The idea of not knowing where the other would be after high school so was so spot-on. And more than that was Isla’s feeling that she didn’t deserve it. This book had me crying at the sad parts, and laughing out loud at the funny parts. There’s this one catastrophic fight the couple has on one terrible car ride, and it had me flashing back to my own catastrophic fight I had on a car-ride when I was Isla’s age. I was relating to everything in such a way that I realize how many times I say I can relate to characters, but in actuality, it comes nowhere close to this.
When all the characters from the past books come together toward the end, I cried again from happiness (!) Each character is so different, and it was amazing to see them all work so well together. I just feel like I know them. Like I could imagine what Isla would say to my questions. And I know how Josh would react to certain jokes. Stephanie Perkins writes real characters that just feel like people you know.
The setting, the topics, the romance, and the characters all work together to make this one, amazing book. Perkins is one of my favorite YA contemporary writers, and I guess just one of my favorite YA writers, which really means one of my favorite writers, period. I’ve already gone back and re-read my favorite pieces (and the last 50 pages) again. These books are definitely more character driven then plot driven. If you like character driver stories, you absolutely must give these books a go. I give this a 10/10. It was well worth the wait.

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