I know this is going to shock you, people of the internet, but…I did not finish Frankenstein.
I had good intentions, but then my Books a Million order arrived in the mail. I FINALLY had Lauren Graham’s book. And Isla. I finally have Isla.
I have been waiting for this book for months. The original publication date was pushed back, for very good reason, and I have been waiting for it as patiently as I can. However, since I loved Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, I was SO excited to finally have Isla and the Happily Ever After.
In relation to the other two, it felt a little off at first. Anna and Lola each had a goal. A Dream Job. It’s part of what I loved about them. They knew what they wanted to be, and neither was a typical “everybody wants to do it” kind of career. And they fit their personalities completely. In that light, Isla seemed a little lost. But as you go through her story, you find that she is lost. Isla might be the most realistic of the three because she’s still trying to figure out who she is, like many high school students.
As such, Perkins has to define this character not on her aspirations or even on her ideas of herself, but on her actions and the thoughts that come naturally to her. She shows her loyalty and patience in her friendship with Kurt, the boy she’s known since diapers who happens to be autistic. With autism, Kurt very easily could have become a caricature or a political statement. Instead, he’s a real character, who grows and changes. His autism is part of his personality, but it doesn’t define him. What defines Kurt is his cartography skills, his love for Isla, and his feelings.
She makes the characters come alive, but she also places the readers directly in the cities she talks about. Isla lives her a double life in both Paris and New York, and she clearly makes them feel like home. She describes them with familiarity, but with an undercurrent of magic that highlights the feeling of young love amazingly.
Of course, I can’t really be objective about this. I haven’t been hit so hard by a book, so close to home, since the last Sarah Dessen. I relate to Isla so well. Her physical traits sound like me. Her fear of the future sounds like me. Her insecurities and her self-criticism sound exactly like me. In short, I kept reading because I needed Isla to get her happy ending to prove that I could get mine.
But it’s a beautiful love story, not just about the dating relationship, but about her beginning to fall in love with herself. And her journey isn’t finished when the book is over, but that’s okay. By then, the reader has already fallen in love with her.
Oh, and speaking of Sarah Dessen, Perkins is the only other writer I know who weaves her old characters into her new stories. So if you need to know that Lola and Anna are okay, if you are at all invested in their lives, this book will be very satisfying for you in that sense as well.
Edit: I forgot to do the thing that I meant to do at the end of every one of these, so…here you go.
My favorite thing about this book: Probably the cameo and what happened for Anna. I mean, I love Isla’s story, but that little nod to Anna’s was amazing.
My least favorite thing about this book: Well, the sex scene was fine, not vulgar or graphic, but they “finished together.” Does that actually happen on the first attempt?
Who I would most like to recommend this book to: All the girls who have a self-loathing problem. Or who love Paris.
Where I read this book: …Again, on the couch at home. And a little at work.
Where this book sits on my bookshelf: After Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door, before The Friendship Pact.