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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After
by Stephanie Perkins

Release Date: August 14, 2014
Publisher: Dutton
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 339
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: 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.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

This is not really a review of Isla and the Happily Ever After.  It’s impossible for me to properly review it, because I am way too invested in this book, its companions, and its author.  That’s just a fact, and I cannot overlook that.  What will follow is more of a review of the series, a review of what this series means to me and what I think it means in general.  In short, this is my love letter to Stephanie Perkins.

Anna and the French Kiss is the book I recommend most. It’s the book I use to lure people into reading YA, because it showcases the best parts of romantic contemporary YA, in my opinion.  For this reason, I often call Anna “the book of my head” because it is the book I turn to whenever I need mental comfort. I’ve reread it so many times, I’ve actually lost count, but I know I’m easily in the double digits.  In contrast, Lola and the Boy Next Door is the book of my heart.  When I read the last words of that book, I was giddy for hours.  When I visited the SF landmarks mentioned in their story (especially when I saw the sign for Dolores Street), my heart nearly burst out of my chest, which would’ve made for one big mess.

After much deliberation, I have decided that Isla and the Happily Ever After is the book of my soul.  Isla’s story is about a lot of things, but it’s about learning to trust yourself, to find worth in yourself, to believe that being you is more than enough.  It’s about taking risks: all kinds of risks from little teeny ones to big honkin’ life-changing ones.  It’s about… well, I should just let you decide for yourself what it’s about.

I’ve been waiting to read this for a long time, what seemed like an eternity at times, but I don’t place any blame on Stephanie for that.  I know she fought through her own darkest depths to give us this story, and knowing she came out on the other side brings me so much joy.  This next part is hard to say and a little embarrassing but I’m putting it out there—it was around page 300 that all of these thoughts hit me all at once. I thought of Stephanie and her struggle and now her success that I held in my hands.  I thought of what that meant to her and to those who love her and to her readers and the way that Venn diagram is likely a big circle. Without notice, I began to weep. It was unexpected, but I am a crier, so that’s how my feelings come out—salty and often. I’m just proud of her.

Like I said, this is less about the book and more about my love of words—specifically, the words Stephanie Perkins has given me. It’s another knock-out, my friend. I can’t thank you enough.