Thursday, 21 August 2014

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

BASIC FACTS

Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published by Dutton Juvenile on 14th August 2014
Genre: contemporary romance [young adult]
ISBN: 9780525425632
Pages: 352

SYNOPSIS

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.
(source: Goodreads)

QUOTES

I don’t know what I believe. I guess that makes me a Christmas Tree Agnostic.

“‘Colour me intrigued, Martin.’ I wrinkle my nose. ‘Yeah. That doesn’t work with a male surmane, does it?’”

MY OPINION

I always take notes while reading books I intend to review. If I only based this review on my impression of the first couple of chapters, I’m pretty sure it would still turn out to be fairly accurate. Sadly—because something about this novel seemed odd right from the beginning.

First off, the good stuff: Isla and the Happily Ever After is written in Stephanie Perkins’ cute, fluffy style that makes you want to absorb the whole book in one sitting, and you won’t even notice how quickly time flies by. 
Another perk is the setting. This time, we don’t only follow the main character’s life in the charming Parisian boarding school known from Anna and The French Kiss, but we also get a glimpse at a different European city as well as Isla’s home in Manhattan. I appreciate stories that place a special emphasis on the setting, as opposed to those that are set in an unnamed, random town that has no significance to the plot.

Instead of having two characters who get together at the end of the book after a long period of struggles and complications, Isla and Josh become a couple almost instantaneously. While I appreciate Stephanie Perkins’ effort to shake up her pattern a bit, I thought it was neither convincing nor particularly suspenseful for the readers.
At the beginning we learn that Isla has had a crush on Josh for years. They coincidentally meet at a restaurant in their mutual hometown Manhattan, and Josh takes an interest in her right away. Apart from the fact that this seemed awfully convenient, it all happened way too fast. What starts as a teenage crush turns straight into a relationship, without any nuances of them getting to know each other. That’s kind of an unhealthy base for getting involved with someone. Perkins expects you to accept Isla’s feelings for Josh without giving any reasons for readers to understand his appeal.

I usually read contemporaries in which the boy gets the girl at the end, and the banter beforehand provides tension and maintains the suspense throughout the whole novel. In this case, however, the story arc felt anti-climactic and slightly random.
Isla focuses more on the problems that arise when you’re inexperienced and in a relationship. There were two major obstacles in the protagonists’ relationship. The first one happened halfway through the book and came as no surprise. The second problem, though, was far-fetched and felt like the author was making a mountain out of a molehill, for the sole purpose of having some drama.

Isla’s teen angst was just too much for my taste. I lack self-confidence myself, so I normally like awkward characters, but this time it didn’t feel right. I didn’t care much about Josh, either, until the end of the book. He came across as a rich kid and I couldn’t understand why he acted the way he did,  with made it hard for me to sympathise with him. And Kurt, Isla’s autistic best friend, was fifth-wheeling it big time.

Another unpleasant surprise was the humour. Some scenes are goofy and funny, but there are other parts when I was weirded out by the things the characters were laughing about. I don’t remember feeling this way about Stephanie Perkins’ previous novels. It was odd.

If all that sounded horrible to you, let me assure you that I nonetheless enjoyed Isla and the Happily Ever After, even though I was disappointed with it. The ending is what saved this book for me. It rounded up unresolved issues between Isla and Josh, as well as with her little sister Hattie. The protagonists made some progress in their relationship, and their mutual feelings seemed more realistic and comprehensible.
We also get to see more of Josh’s personality through his graphic novel. As a fan of comics and art, I enjoyed that aspect of the story.  The fnal reunion with Anna, Étienne, Lola and Cricket was adorable, so in the end, the novel does somewhat live up to its title. In my opinion, it’s just nowhere near as good as Stephanie Perkins’ previous novels. Had I known this would turn out to be a disappointment, I probably wouldn’t have read it.

RATING

9 comments:

  1. I have nominated you for a Liebster Award. Go to http://thepaperback-reader.blogspot.com/2014/08/liebster-award-nomination.html#.U_ZyhPldXTo to find out more info about it.

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    1. Thank you, that’s very kind of you. :-) I did this tag about two years ago and decided not to participate more than once.

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  2. I liked Isla. I totally get what you mean about the second problem, but at least to me, it makes sense. I don't know. I liked the story and I totally think it fits. My only problem with Isla (really, all of Stephanie's books) is that sometimes it gets to romancey and makes me cringe a little. I love the swoon of the romance, but sometimes, I think it's a little much.

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    1. Uh, yes, I agree! There are quite a few cringeworthy romantic scenes in Stephanie Perkins’ books. In fact, I thought that in IAtHEA, there were just as many cringey romantic moments as there were cute ones, unfortunately.

      About the second problem: I do get why Isla would be upset about the whole rabbit thing etc., but the scene seemed forced to me. They could’ve just talked it out, but instead there was this whole drama ... I don’t know, it just felt over the top.

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  3. Aww well that's disappointing. I hope I wind up loving it much more :) Great review, and thanks for the heads up!

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    1. I hope you do, too! ;) I was quite sad that it couldn’t live up to my expectations. :(

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  4. Och Mensch :/ Das hört sich ja leider gar nicht gut an. Hatte das E-Book für 2€ vorbestellt, also egal wie es für mich ausgehen wird, immerhin hab ich nicht allzu viel bezahlt. Ich hatte ja schon meine Problemchen mit "Lola" (diese ständige Lügerei, das kann ich gar nicht leiden!). Na mal sehen, ich hoffe, ich werde es etwas mehr mögen!

    Liebe Grüße,
    Tina

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    1. Wenn dich Lolas Eigenarten schon gestört haben – ging mir übrigens auch so, aber mir hat der Rest des Buches gut genug gefallen, um darüber hinwegsehen zu können –, sehe ich bei Isla eher schwarz ... Aber wer weiß, vielleicht gefällt es dir es ja doch! :)
      Ich bin im Nachhinein ziemlich froh, dass meine Vorbestellung so lange auf sich warten ließ, dass ich sie storniert und mir stattdessen nur das eBook gekauft habe.

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  5. I agree with you, Isla was nice and all, but it didn't live up to my expectations after the two previous books.

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