Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
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 Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.
** spoiler alert **
Well that was disappointing. And I hate to say that because I know Stephanie Perkins worked so hard on this one. And we all waited so long for this one. But nope, it just didn’t work for me. Honestly I would probably give it 2 stars but Stephanie Perkins IS a good writer, and there were a few good scenes.
I was looking forward to getting to know Isla. From the very first time I read Anna and the French Kiss I knew her crush on Josh would be significant. And the first few chapters when she’s all loopy on painkillers were as much fun as a scene from Anna or Lola. But it didn’t last. Unfortunately I really didn’t get to know anything more about Isla. Except that she’s supposedly super smart, although she makes a lot dumb decisions. And she’s like super ultra mega insecure. I mean we all have insecurities and we all have feelings of jealousy or inadequacy from time to time, and I guess I can kind of appreciate this book trying to deal with that aspect? Maybe? Except I didn’t like the way it was handled at all. For one I feel like Isla seriously had some issues beyond just normal self doubt. I mean I feel like INSECURE is the only personality trait I can pinpoint for her. She was insanely obsessed with and then insanely jealous over Josh. And I never really understood where she was coming from. She had a happy home life, stable family, no long term horrible scarring relationships in her past. She acted like dating and sleeping with that other guy was just sooo blasé. But then when it came to Josh she starts flipping out about every. little. thing. For no reason! Josh never gave her any reason not to trust him. It really wasn’t very fair to him. There was no reason he should have had to put up with that nonsense. She was jealous over his EX girlfriend who was definitely not in the picture anymore. I’m sorry. He had a life before he dated you. What a jerk! I mean what? It didn’t even make sense. Of course no one wants to sit there and dwell on their partners past, but you can’t expect people not to live their lives. And I mean she was even there! She knew all along he was with Rashmi and how they acted when they were together, she saw them. It’s not like he was like yeah I’ve never been with anyone and then later she finds out he was in a years long relationship he lied about. Honestly I think part of the problem was she knew TOO MUCH about Josh and Rashmi. And it really did feel like she was just throwing a fit wanting him to go back in time and undo it or to totally deny it ever mattered. And that was essentially the plot. Isla throwing a fit about not being the center of Josh’s universe back when he thought she wasn’t interested in him.
I was hoping to get some insight into Josh too, but I was disappointed on that front as well. If INSECURE was Isla’s only trait, DRAWS was Josh’s. Like I get he’s an artist and he’s really good and he might even have a future in it, but I’m sorry, Isla standing in the cold rain for like an hour holding an umbrella so he could draw? Um no sorry. Did not like that. There were good scenes in this book but there were also a lot of scenes (like that) that made me uncomfortable in weird ways. I was waiting for the jealousy/insecurity thing to get handled and then when it did I felt like it was handled completely the wrong way. Josh drew those pictures of Rashmi IN THE MOMENT. Like a diary. That’s what he was feeling in the moment. That doesn’t mean that’s what he’d always feel for her. But those were significant moments in his life and I felt like Isla made him minimize and deny them and that just bothered me. She should have grown up some and accepted that people have experiences in their lives and that’s how they grow and you don’t have to like them but you also don’t have to act like they never happened or never mattered. And honestly it really wasn’t any of her business, especially after only dating for a month or two.
Josh didn’t feel like Josh in this book. I really liked him in Anna and I actually liked Rashmi too. Josh and Rashmi’s relationship felt more real and solid in just the bits and pieces we saw in Anna than Josh and Isla’s relationship felt even though they had a whole book of their own. I didn’t like that it was always kind of implied that since Josh and Rashmi “bickered” that they shouldn’t have been together. Disagreeing on occasion doesn’t mean you’re with the wrong person. Anyway, I could accept that they broke up, they were going their separate ways. But Isla never felt like as good a match for him. She worries that she’s just with him because she was there and he wanted SOMEONE and even though he denies it and says he’s in love (WAY too fast!!) it definitely felt that way to me. I mean he loved Rashmi at one point too, and for a lot longer. Let’s not forget this entire intense relationship drama unfolded over a few months! Isla was there and she was a “blank canvas” so it was easy to have her in his life because she practically worshiped him and had no strong opinions of her own outside her negative feelings toward Rashmi. I didn’t like how the “blank canvas” thing was used either. Yes, it is perfectly fine not to know what you want to do with your life right out of high school. Or when you’re 25 or when you’re 35! No one knows how their life will turn out. It’s great to have goals but there is also a lot to be learned in the process and things will always change in unexpected ways. So no need to have everything nailed down at 18, that’s fine. However it seemed more like she was letting Josh and his dreams define her in an obsessive and unhealthy way.
I was surprised that Josh’s family was as stable as it was. I thought Josh had a darker side because of a poor relationship with his parents or some painful thing in his past. I thought maybe it would come out that his father was super corrupt or his mom was having an affair, SOME kind of drama to create his broody attitude, but no. His parents are busy, but also super supportive, even though Josh has been a discipline case for two years, wasting their money and potentially making his dad look bad to the voters. And why? Because spoiled rich kid is just so dissatisfied with his life in PARIS. *sigh* It’s not the vacation cabin in the woods so what’s the point? Might as well give up on life.
I was excited to see Anna and Etienne and Meredith and Cricket and Lola make an appearance. I REALLY wish we could have somehow heard Etienne’s proposal instead of seeing it from afar! And I know Meredith is like in a better place with the whole thing now, but I really wish she could have her own awesome love story. I’ve always loved her.
I wasn’t expecting this book to have the spark that Anna has. That’s something that is rare. But I enjoyed Stephanie’s writing in Lola as well. Isla and I, however, just didn’t get along. The writing flows well, so at least it’s an easy quick read.