Wednesday 17 September 2014

#CBR6 Book 98: "Isla and the Happily Ever After" by Stephanie Perkins

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Isla has been in love with Josh since their first year together at the American boarding school in Paris, but he's been unattainable for most of her time there. Instead she's been pining for him from a distance, hanging out with her platonic BFF Kurt (who has Aspergers' Syndrome). Now in their final year together, it looks as if all of Isla's dreams are coming true. Josh not only notices her, he wants to be her boyfriend! True love's path doesn't exactly run smoothly though, and when Josh gets expelled and sent back to New York, Isla and Josh discover that they're really going to have to fight for their Happily Ever After.

This is the final book in the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy. All three books can easily be read without any prior knowledge of the other books, but this book may be more satisfying if you've read at the other two, as the main characters show up as supporting cast during parts of the story.

The son of a successful senator and an aspiring graphic novelist, Josh Wasserman isn't really happy at his posh boarding school in Paris (I really want to smack all these ingrate kids who don't realise how good they have it). As a result, he's been acting out a lot over the years, which comes to a head after he convinces Isla to break school rules and go to Barcelona with him for a few days. As she's got a fairly spotless record, she just gets a month's detention, but he is fetched home by his furious mother.

Isla is very smart, but clearly deeply insecure about her relationship to Josh. She's a very good friend to Kurt, but she can be quite self-centred at times, and while she's very close to her older sister, she clearly pretty much completely ignores and/or underestimates her younger sister for much of the book. While Josh has all sorts of hopes and dreams for the future, Isla keeps working for that perfect grade point average, but doesn't actually have any idea what she wants to do with her future. She is entirely directionless and it scares her. She's also completely convinced that she's not really worth loving and when things start getting tough between her and Josh, she seems to think that sabotaging the relationship before things get more difficult is the way to go. Silly girl.

Of all of Perkins' heroines, Isla is probably the one with the most character growth over the course of the story (and all three girls do a fair bit of growing up) and she discovers that in order to have a proper HEA, she doesn't just need to make things right with Josh, but make herself happy in other areas of her life. While Isla has a very close friendship with Kurt, she clearly underestimates his ability to socialise with others and has to face up to the harsh truth that she may be the reason they have very few friends at school, not Kurt and his Aspergers'. The reason her younger sister is such a brat may be because Isla never takes her even a little bit seriously.

Josh is sweet, but he can't compete with Cricket as my favourite of Perkins' heroes. I also found his way of dealing with his dissatisfaction with school annoying. His parents really don't seem like bad people and it seemed strange to me that he didn't try to communicate with them more, but then, he is a teenager, and they are not always rational or sensible.

What I do like about the book is that it really does show both sides of a relationship, not just the happy flush of first love and infatuation, but that some couples really have to work to find lasting happiness and long distance relationships are not just fun and games. I will keep an eye out for Perkins' next book and hope it's as good as her first three.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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