Release Date: August 14, 2014
Isla has had a crush on the artistic and kind of mysterious Josh since she was a freshman. She is seriously shy, but still somehow has managed to make a fool of herself in front of him on a yearly basis. Josh sees these events quite a bit differently and much to Isla's surprise they start a romance.
But unfortunately, that thing about the course of love never running smooth is all too true for the new couple. There are school rules, detentions, parental problems and more determined to stand in the way of their relationship. On top of that there's the fact that both Isla and Josh have personal battles that need to be fought before they can really get to that happily ever after. People always dismiss first love as fleeting, will Isla and Josh be just another example of lost love? Or will they find a way to find their way back to each other?
Isla, Isla, Isla is there anything more delicious than getting the exact thing you want after waiting for it for a really long time? I don't know that there is. Anna and the French Kiss is one of my most favorite books and it's follow up, Lola and the Boy Next Door was just as wonderful. Could the third book live up to the standard set by these two? I'm so happy to report that the answer is a giant yes!
One of the best things about Stephanie Perkins novels is how well she knows her leading ladies. Isla is smart and funny, but she doesn't have the self confidence to enjoy being herself. Instead, she second-guesses and criticizes herself even as she gives her friends the benefit of the doubt. Isla is at school in Paris, dating the boy she's crushed on for ages and the whole time she's waiting for the other shoe to drop. She is all too human and it was easy (at least for me) to identify with the way she sees the world. In each of Perkins novels her main characters have tackled a lot of self growth through the arc of the story and it makes them incredibly relatable.
And then there's the romance. Her books have a swoon level that is almost unparallelled. The love interests of her girls are guys with good hearts who fall hard and what could be more romantic than that? This is not a rom-com where two people hate each other and then *poof* suddenly they're in love, instead you have hard-won crushes and long looks across the classroom, these are relationships with slow builds that you hope will last for the long run.
Isla and the Happily Ever After would have been a favorite of the year even if I had never read any other books by Perkins before. The fact that it brings a beloved trilogy to a perfect ending is a fabulous bonus.