I know, I know. I speak about Stephanie Perkins way too much, but if she didn’t cause me so much heart ache maybe I wouldn’t have to! I can’t just let her tear me apart, rip my heart out and use it as a football and pretend like it isn’t happening! I need to speak through my feelings with you, It’s the only way I’ll ever come close to moving on, – particularly my most recent feelings concerning her newest book, ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’. In recent weeks I have once again found myself lying on my bed at 2am, that familiar pain in my chest, wishing with all my might that I could pull one of Stephanie Perkin’s boys out of their fictional world and safely into my arms.
This time it was Josh. Joshua Wasserstein. Though I had not truly appreciated him when reading ‘Anna and the French Kiss’, my mind too consumed with the sheer swooshiness of Etienne’s hair, I was certainly appreciating him now. While Etienne and Cricket, the romantic interests of Perkins two previous companion novels, were friendly and confident, Josh was quiet, artistic and mysterious. In my mind he was stronger built than the other two boys, less soft edges, with a gorgeous well-shaped smile. It was a lovely change from the other two love interests and I ate up every romantic gesture like I hadn’t had a meal in weeks.
There is an added physicality in ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ not found in the previous books. Usually, Perkins focuses on exactly how the lovely couple came to be, the book ending with that fantastic first kiss moment so highly anticipated by the reader, however, this time we get to have a look at what comes after that. Of course, once a seventeen year-old couple has been together long enough to get that kiss out of the way, things begin to progress to much more… serious stuff. However, being so familiar with Perkins’ usual romance structure, I really did not expect this uh… new kind of kissing contained within the book.
But, of course, Perkins being the literary genius that she is, it was all okay. Better than okay, it was nice. It wasn’t awkward or disgusting. She avoided explicit language and instead of the actual physical act, Perkins spoke of the feelings her characters experienced, something not usually the focal point of this kind of scene. It wasn’t pornographic and strangely, it didn’t seem all that sexual. Josh and Isla did not ‘have sex’, they ‘made love’. It was beautiful.
However, don’t for a minute think that ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ is about sex. Most definitely not. These moments were simply the finer details of an ultimately gorgeous picture; the glint in Mona Lisa’s eye.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Perkins book if we didn’t have an artfully chosen romantic setting. The book has two main settings – new and exciting Manhattan, brimming with people and possibilities, and… Paris! I squealed with joy when I found out we were going back to Paris, setting of ‘Anna and the French Kiss’. I want every book to be set in Paris, things just seem to be more dazzling over there. Joshua Wasserstein was amazing for many reasons, he was gorgeous, artistic, thoughtful and funny… but now he gets to speak casual French too? I’m practically swooning as I type.
More specific than Paris, in ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ we get to return to Anna’s boarding school from ‘Anna and the French Kiss’. Yet another reason to read the series – the three stories are all tastefully intertwined, with ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ featuring, in my opinion, the best cameos of the entire series. Etienne, Anna, Meredith, Rashmi, Cricket, Lola and Calliope all make an appearance at some point in the book. The reader is given enough to detail to both excite and satisfy, but crucially, the cameos do not take over the main plotline of the book. I really do wish that I could talk to you about the wonderful scene near the end of the book, but even I would not be so mean as to spoil such a perfect surprise.
There is only one fault I have for ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ and that is this; the remarkable book marks the end of the three-part series. As I put the book down a weird sort of sadness washed over me and I suddenly wished I had never read any of it at all. I wished I could be back on the first page of ‘Anna and the French Kiss’, my low expectations about to be blown out of the water.
However, at the end of ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ I knew one thing for certain. Stephanie Perkins is my favourite author. She writes exactly the kind of books I want to read, satisfyingly romantic and perfect right down to the last detail. I can’t stress enough how much I loved this series and I just know that whatever Perkins chooses to release next, I will buy from Waterstones with a bright grin on my face and an open heart.
If you would like to find out more about Stephanie Perkins, here is her website!
And here's my Anna and the French Kiss review!