Saturday, April 4, 2015

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Publication Date:  August 14, 2014
Publisher:  Dutton
Series:  Anna and the French Kiss #3
Pages:  352
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Synopsis:  Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. 

Review:  Sadly, the conclusion to this companion novel series is my least favorite of the bunch.  It fell below the bar that the previous two had set, and I am disappointed.

Unfortunately, the writing didn't flow as well in this book.  At times it felt stilted and even forced, and some of the chapters cut off and began again in odd places.  Not only that, but the entire plot felt entirely rushed.  Not to mention how predictable it was.  The worst part, however, is that the conflict is entirely self-inflicted.  It is drama that could have been easily solved with a conversation. 

Isla and the Boy Next Door lacks the maturity and depth that Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door both have. Stephanie Perkins attempts to throw in some more complex issues later in the book, issues that I just didn't buy.    

But the part that really let down the whole book was the romance. It is simply not believable.  It's an obsessive crush that turns into insta-love, and it is so cringe-worthy.  The issues of jealousy are glossed over, and due to the relationship sparking so early in the novel, the main focus is Josh and Isla's relationship, rather than the characters as different individuals.  They became co-dependent, one of those couples who refer to themselves as 'we'.  While cute, it is clearly not a healthy relationship.     

Isla and Josh are more side characters than protagonists.  Their character development is stunted, and both of their personalities fall flat.  Isla is more of a mess than Josh.  Isla is all over the place. She is highly over dramatic.  It's like she can't help the stupid things that spill out of her mouth and make me want to throw the book against a wall.  Meanwhile, Josh is forgotten and not focused on one bit. He is a cardboard cut-out, a love interest that could have been anyone rather than a complicated person.  

One thing I did enjoy a whole lot is the family dynamic.  The three sisters relationships and how they grow is the sweetest thing imaginable.  Although, Kurt, Isla's best friend, is great character, he is completely forgotten about when the romance begins.  

The setting didn't seem to matter at all during this story, something I missed from the previous books.  In the other two, the setting is a personality that plays a role in shaping the characters and their story, but in Isla and the Happily Ever After, it could have been anywhere.  I was also sorely disappointed that this book is set mostly in Paris, when it promises New York.  There are a few New York scenes, but not enough to consider it the main setting. 

Barcelona is also visited in this novel, but Josh and Isla spend the trip making out.  Also, it seemed so out of place for the shy, hesitant Isla to suddenly be willing to drop everything and break the rules to run away to Barcelona with a boy.  Not to mention how, when it all goes badly, as should be expected, she blames, not herself, but others. 

If there is a saving grace for this book, it is the pizza parlor scene at the end.  In this section, all the characters from the past two books--Lola and Cricket, Anna and Etienne--get together and have a pizza. While somewhat unrealistic, it is totally satisfactory.  But it's sad that the best scene from the story is one that focuses on the past characters instead of Isla and Josh.  

I love a lot of scenes from this book, but I dislike the plot overall. Things were happening, but nothing really progressing.  While a few parts are adorable and enjoyable, they do not make up for the overall of the story, one that is poorly paced and plotted.  

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