Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3) 

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Rating: 5 Stars

Sometimes, you can just feel when a novel is about to change your life. Isla changed mine.

Stephanie Perkins knows the deepest corners of my heart; the spaces where the darkest secrets and most tragic insecurities lie. In Anna, Lola, Isla--in them she painstakingly reveals, piece-by-piece, the fears I hesitate to lay before even those most beloved to me. But, in doing so, she reminds me that I am not alone in my swirling thoughts. To sit down and curl up with a Stephanie Perkins romance is to lose yourself in the flesh-and-blood ideal that you are human; you belong on this Earth. You, with your quirks and flaws and bad parts, are not an anomaly.

I experience such a personal, visceral reaction to the tales Stephanie Perkins weaves. In Isla I could not help but become lost in the lines of Josh's artwork, the strokes of his dreamlike love, or the coils of tension which dictate their tragic love story. Perkins does little to re-build Paris, for location is of next to no importance to either Isla or Josh. Where Anna comes to realize that her home is St. Clair, Isla and Josh measure their romance in distance. Josh returned three hours ago from D.C. Josh's flight left two hours before Isla arrived. Josh is seated across the table from Isla but it feels as if he is across the Atlantic. It's curious, to me, that I re-call my favorite scenes from Anna based on their setting. That heart-warming reconciliation atop Notre Dame. When Etienne buys Anna a collection of love poetry from Shakespeare & Co. Or that moment when St. Clair rests his foot against Anna's in the movie theater as they watch a screening of "It Happened One Night." With Isla it feels as if every moment of the novel melts fluidly together. Isla. Josh. Isla and Josh. Their limbs intertwined, their hearts beating as one, their silent spaces.

In comparison to Anna and Lola, both which read--from the surface--to be "just another" contemporary romance with a blossoming love story, indomitable hurdle, and all-too-happy reconciliation, Isla is intense, explosive, and--dare I say it?--sensual. It feels distinctly foreign from any brand of American romance, merely because it is such a tangle of limbs, mess of hearts, and all-round love affair. What Isla and Josh share is far more than a simple love affair but the pacing, the sensation, the hit-you-in-the-feels emotions...surely nothing but the movies can feel this way? But Stephanie Perkins not only forces you to believe it on paper, she makes you believe it in life too. I want a romance like Isla and Josh; passionate, understanding, and messy. Forget Anna and St. Clair, Lola and Cricket, because Isla and Josh are the love story I never even knew I craved.

Like I said, this woman knows my heart better than I do.

For readers, Isla will most likely surprise, not because of its protagonist, but rather because Josh comes alive in a manner we never knew possible until this tale. We imagine we know him through Anna's lens but, in truth, it's such a tiny facet of the person he truly is. What I love most about Josh, beyond his encompassing, incredible artistic talent, is the fact that he is far removed from the ideal boyfriend. Not only is he on the verge of being expelled from high school but he treats those threats with disdain, ignoring high school for he believes he has found his true calling. On paper, I wouldn't want to know Josh, let alone date him, but through Isla's eyes we grow to see him as more than the qualities which define him.

Yet, for me, Isla remains the soul of this novel. Whether it be her insecurities, her strengths, her weaknesses, her mistakes; I understood her. I felt connected with Anna, likely because of her initial out-of-body experience in arriving to Paris and, later, because it's simply impossible not to root for her. With Isla, though, I felt a kindred spirit. I'm not petite or pale or ginger. I don't share Isla's physical appearance and, even mentally, I am not nearly as introverted or painfully frightened as she is. But I used to be. And, even now, I sympathized with Isla's struggle to break out of her bubble. Even now, I feel scared about my unknown future and the adventures college may bring--but like Isla, I'm more excited than scared. I lose myself in a book. I use studying as a coping method to forget about the difficulties in my life. I typically have nothing but time on my hands to devote to school work that when I do decide to pursue an endeavor solely for myself or take time to meet a friend it shows in a slight drop in my GPA and the unfairness of life hits me all over again. So many lines in this novel felt as if they were straight out of my head that I could scarcely believe it. Isla, in many ways, chronicles my own journey of growth, albeit in a far more romantic way (isn't that always the case, though?).

Moreover, Isla is the romance novel I've been clamoring for; the one which explores the hurdles in making a relationship work. With Isla not only must Isla come to terms with the tight friend circle Josh shares outside of the school they both attend but Josh, too, must learn how to ingratiate himself into Isla's already-established lifestyle and friendships. It's a dance, in so many ways, finding that perfect space where real life, friendship, and romance can all exist as one and, as Perkins writes it, it isn't easy. Not in the least.

I could go on about Isla for ages and, likely, still be unable to reveal anything concrete about the story without spoiling the tale for you. It's passion. It's adolescence. It's growth.

It's Stephanie Perkins. Of course it's goddamn perfect.

You can read my review for Lola and the Boy Next Door here.


  1. I can't wait to pick this up, Keertana. I'm a little worried about the angst and messiness of the romance, because it can feel like a stab to the heart sometimes! I have to get through a few review books before I can read this one. Wonderful review, Keertana! :)

  2. Wow, this book sounds amazing, and great review! I've been wanting to read this one for awhile now, so hopefully I'll be able to pick up a copy soon.


  3. I've been wavering back and forth as to whether I actually wanted to read Isla, but between the words of others and your own I've determined that yes, yes I do. I didn't love Anna, and was warned that I would probably have even bigger issues with Lola. Isla seems to be of a different caliber though, one I think I will have to explore. I love that there's so much more to Josh than we ever saw in Anna--I remember when reading that book being interested in knowing what became of him. Beautiful review, nervous but excited to see what I think myself!

  4. Don’t be mad at me, but I’ve never read anything by Stephanie Perkins, despite all the glowing reviews her books receive; but all the hype that’s been going for Isla has really shown me how passionate people are about her work on a completely different level.

    Your review makes me want to read this ASAP – I can feel your love for the story and the characters, the emotions and the romance just radiating off the screen, and it’s wonderful. I think you’ve convinced me to give her work a try! Thanks for sharing Keertana, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

  5. I really need to try this author, I heard so many great things about her and it's nice to see you had again a wonderful time.

  6. Beautiful review!
    I've ordered this book and I'm patiently waiting (patiently? who am I kidding?!?!) for it to arrive cause I know I'm gonna read it in one sitting without taking a single break.
    Cause as you said, she's Stephanie Perkins. There's no need to say more than that. I love all her books, Lola being my favorite. Though you said this is more sensual and noe I'm even more interested and WHERE'S MY COPY?!??!
    See? Totally patient. :3

  7. I must say that as a recent lover of Stephanie's work, that they really make you feel complete. To see such a connection between you and the characters. Josh's style of work, you can get lost in, I love his work and how much emotion goes into them, the passion and concentration. Though I must say this isn't the favourite of the series, it still won my heart over. Lovely review, Keertana! :)

  8. Beautiful review! I'm so excited to finally read this one. I just bought a copy on Friday when I was able to make it to the bookstore. It's so lovely to have, but I need to read a couple books before I can get to it...looks like i have wonderful things to look forward too though.

  9. Isla sounds like a great lead and brings emotion and the feels. But the transformation of Josh sounds good too

  10. Aww what a wonderful review Keertana (all your reviews are wonderful but this one is so amazing). It's beautiful when you connect with the author or stories on such deep level. I'm so happy that Isla was in for you. It wasn't that life-changing for me but I guess it was Lola's story for me. I was Lola and Lola was me and that's what stays. She will always be my fave girl in this series. Lovely review, Keertana :)

  11. I'm so happy you found a book, and even a series that speaks to you in such a strong way. I haven't had much luck with Anna, maybe because contemporary rarely works for me, maybe because I'm just too... ahem... old, who in the heck knows? But every reader should have that sort of connection you found here, the deep and profound understanding.
    Wonderful review, my darling. :)

  12. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!! I was so hoping this would get a gorgeous, glowing review from you Keertana, and I couldn't be happier it has. I can't wait to get my hands on this one. I love the realism of the hurdles Josh and Isla face - having to work their way into separate and already established groups of friends can be really tricky. *runs to Amazon*

  13. I have wanted to read this one since Anna came out but still haven't picked it up. I feel like I really need to fix my lack of knowledge of this series. What I love about your review is that it brings out all the feels :) and I do love that in a book. You seem to be really connected to these characters and I love the sound of the relationships. I so need to get started on this!

  14. This is a beautiful review, K! Your passion for this story and these characters is leaking off the page. I honestly decided not to review it after I saw your thoughts on GR, because there's no way I can articulate anything as eloquently as you do. I love how we get to know Josh so well even though this isn't from his POV, and I definitely connected to many aspects of Isla's character as well. And because of you, I didn't feel so annoyed during their Big Break. Even though it felt a little out of the blue to me when it began, they both needed that time so much. I agree that this is my favorite of the 3 in this series. Beautiful review!

  15. Oh I love this series so much but haven't picked this one up yet because I'm so sad to see it end :( *cries* I really don't want to say by to these characters! I love them too much!

  16. YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

    I literally could not agree more with anything you said. I recently devoured the whole series, and having read them in such a short space of time, I have the details in my head to all recall. But I agree entirely with you about Isla, there was something about this novel that drew me in and blew me away. I connected with Isla in a way that I could never quite relate to Anna and Lola.

    Fantastic review, dearest!

  17. Great post! I just wrote reviews of all of Stephanie Perkins' books on my blog. Come check them out!


I love hearing from my readers and I read, reply, and appreciate every one of the comments I receive!(: If you're a fellow blogger, please leave a link to your blog - I'd love to drop by!

Unfortunately, this is now an award-free blog. I simply do not have the time to respond and forward on the award, but I truly appreciate the nomination regardless.