by Stephanie Perkins
To be published by Dutton
on August 14, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads: From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.
My take: First off, while I think these new covers are beautiful, I realized that I also kind of miss the old ones, because I'd get to see what Isla and Josh look like! Then, as I read that very short synopsis above, I realize that Isla and the Happily Ever After is a bit different from the prior two companion books. While Anna and the French Kiss chronicled Anna's amusing fish-out-of-water struggles to adapt to Paris, and Lola and the Boy Next Door featured Lola's spirited squabbles with her dads over her wrong-for-her boyfriend and her slow realization that the right-for-her boy might be closer than she thinks, Isla and the Happily Ever After is really more of a straightforward relationship story. Yes, it was romantic, but in a different way than I expected.
Isla and Josh are classmates at an American school in Paris and Isla has long been crushing on Josh from afar. As the story opens, she runs into him in a New York cafe and, drugged up on painkillers, pretty much throws herself at him. After that, the two head back to school in Paris. Isla becomes her normal, reserved self, and goes back to pining after Josh. (At first I couldn't figure out why he doesn't make a move, but that is explained.)
I must admit that I was a little surprised at first at Isla's ... ordinariness, for lack for a better word. Isla is not adorably awkward like Anna. She's not bold and eccentric like Lola. Her red hair is probably most vivid and remarkable thing about her. But then I decided that it's nice once in a while to have a romantic heroine who isn't fantastically talented or stunningly charismatic -- just a regular person. And it was nice that Isla didn't have the requisite adorable younger sibling -- her younger sister was hilariously obnoxious.
Speaking of flawed characters, I also liked the fact that the two main characters in this book were likable yet very imperfect. Josh is rebellious and privileged and prickly. Isla is, at times, very insecure and jealous, even a little manipulative. But this made these two and their miscommunications and misunderstandings feel more like a real relationship between two eighteen year-olds.
If you're hoping there are cameos from past characters -- yes, there are cameos!! I liked the fact that they didn't take over the whole book, but still added something very special. If you've loved the travelogue aspect of past books, you will definitely not be disappointed either -- three very magical cities are featured in a way that will make you want to pack your suitcase and head to the airport.
While Anna and the French Kiss is still favorite of these books, and Cricket will always be my favorite of the guys, I think fans of these stories will find Isla and the Happily Ever After to be a charming end to this threesome of companion books.