Written by Alyssa Jang
“I am hard on myself. But isn’t it better to be honest about these things before someone else can use them against you? Before someone else can break your heart? Isn’t it better to break it yourself?”
- Stephanie Perkins, Isla and the Happily Ever After
Illustrated almost lavishly by this quote, the experience of embarking on the journey that is Isla and the Happily Ever After is nothing short of breathtaking. Proving to be a sweet and honest novel by Stephanie Perkins, it ultimately proves to be a perfect read for anyone who wants to feel an onslaught of both happiness and emotion, making any day feel like an authentic Valentine’s Day experience.
From the very moment that it begins, Isla and the Happily Ever After immediately sucks readers in for a deep and personal journey. The two protagonists of the story, Isla and Josh, attend the School of America in Paris, but have extremely different goals and dispositions. Isla is a shy, hardworking girl who has a major crush on Josh, a devoted artist who often causes trouble within the classroom and ignores his academic studies. And while at a brief glance it may appear these two protagonists couldn’t be more different, their contrasting personalities may actually have more in common than one may expect. And following a coincidental event that allows them to meet in New York over the summer, Perkins immediately tosses readers into a whirlwind of events, creating an opus story that is both rich and satisfying in its execution. Instead of opting for a traditional romance story, Perkins smartly chooses to illustrate the two characters with a more grounded approach. And as the story progresses, it becomes immediately clear that it was the right choice thanks to the tightly written dialogue and smooth pacing. And while it may stutter in certain places, the book never loses its footing in its two compelling primary protagonists: Josh and Isla.
These two characters shine in the positions that Perkins as an author affords them, landing them into disastrous situations of college acceptance, expulsion warnings, elections, trust issues, and even late night Europe adventures. These events begin to collide with each other, hindering the initiation of a relationship that not only affects their present but their entire futures as well. Throughout the entire 225 pages, not once was the tension and conflict of their relationship ever dropped. It effectively is the romantic version of Christopher Nolan’s 2017’s release Dunkirk, using smooth pacing and realized impressions of literary tension to create a finely tuned literary experience.
As a whole, Isla and the Happily Ever After is a riveting, bold, and refreshing adventure that may not have much innovation in its actual story, but has such an impressive method of storytelling as to where its issues can be justified. Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, has effectively created her best book since the original 2010 release of Anna and the French Kiss.
Score: 7.9 out of 10
Written by Alyssa Jang