Isla and the Happily Ever After
by Stephanie Perkins
I finished the third and last installment of the Anna and the French Kiss series. It was wonderful. I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After. Perkins’ writing is vivid and her plot was moving and addicting. It was impossible to put this book down. As the end of a series, it was fitting and left the reader fulfilled and happy.
Isla attends the same school in Paris that Anna did, only a few years behind. Isla hangs out almost exclusively with her best friend, Kurt. He has high functioning autism and they get each other perfectly. For years, Isla has had a crush on Josh: a hot, moody senior who blows off school and loves to draw. One day they finally connect and get to know each other. Soon, they acknowledge the truth: they have both liked each other for years. Isla was too scared to talk to Josh (especially since he was part of St. Clair’s gang before they graduated and left him behind) and Josh thought Isla was dating Kurt. Such begins their rapid romance. Spoilers: they soon become inseparable, even though Josh respects Isla’s relationship with Kurt and their established routines for the most part. Isla and Josh are rapidly falling in love and decide to recklessly run away to Spain for the weekend. They enjoy the uninterrupted one on one time, but it is not to last. They get caught and Josh is expelled. His father is running for senator and can’t afford the scandal, so Josh is forced to return to N.Y. to be the proper son his parents need him to be. They take away his phone and he and Isla have to sneak around to talk, and those conversations are few and far between. They write letters, but the separation is a huge strain. Finally, over a holiday Isla returns to N.Y. and is invited to a fancy gala as Josh’s date. It is a strenuous night and Isla comes to the realization that she’d only hold Josh back from his potential if they stay together, and if so, that he would realize she’s not good enough and end things down the road. That would be too painful, so Isla decides to break up with him now, in order to hurt less. Josh is crushed, but Isla is stubborn. She returns to school and realizes that she is still helplessly in love with Josh. At first she dismisses it because she feels unworthy of love, but soon she tries to reach out, only to be met with silence. She even buys a comic book and gets it signed by the author for Josh, but then hides it. It’s a horrible time for both of them. While Isla is wrapped in her own misery, Josh is heartbroken, but determined to prove his love to Isla (who is obviously horribly insecure). For years, he’s been working on a memoir comic book of his high school years. He showed the rough version to Isla when they were together and she freaked out because there were only a few pages about her and a ton of pages about his ex (including a full nude spread). Josh took her limited constructive feedback and decides to rewrite it. If he can finish, then he hopes to win back Isla and convince his dad to let him go to college for art and comics. One day, he gets a package: it’s the comic book Isla bought him (her sister sneakily sent it as if from Isla). He takes it as a sign of hope and agrees to join his friends on their trip. Cricket’s sister is competing in the Olympics, so he, Lola, Anna, St. Clair, and Josh are going to watch her, stopping in Paris to meet Isla, “Josh’s friend.” They get together for dinner and it is horribly awkward. St. Clair and Anna are the first to leave and disappear to one of their favorite spots. They are followed by everyone so they can witness St. Clair’s proposal! Anna says yes, and everyone leaves them in peace. Finally, it’s only Josh and Isla left. He gives her the new manuscript and makes her promise to read it right away and call as soon as she finishes. Isla is so disappointed. She hoped he would want to stay with her, but she agrees. Soon she is lost in his masterpiece. It has a new, solid story and focus (and she is much more present). In the end, her character is reading the new manuscript and realizes that Josh truly loves her. She calls him to find he’s been waiting outside for her the whole. Isla wipes her tears and looks out the window to see Josh. She runs outside and they embrace. It’s such a beautiful ending. Side note: she makes things right with Kurt, becoming friends again, and it works out for the best because Kurt has made more friends in the meantime and is very happy. Additionally, the theme of life after college is woven throughout the book and Isla and Josh get into schools in the same town and are able to live together during college. It’s truly a happily ever after story and I loved it!
Summing it up: I loved this book. It had humor, heart, angst, and a happy ending. I definitely recommend it.
All the best, Abbey