Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Oh, Isla.  Where to begin?

I’m predicting that I will be in the minority of reviewers who don’t come out of this reading experience singing Isla’s praises. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it.  Isla is a thoroughly enjoyable book, written with the same easy flow that make Anna and Lola such accessible reads.  This book has been three long years in the making, and in that time, more readers have come to discover Perkins’ debut and sophomore novels and have fallen in love with her innate ability to place readers squarely in her characters’ shoes.  For good reason; when I first discovered Perkins’ work, for a few blissful hours, I was Anna and Lola.  Particularly with regard to Anna, her experiences were related so organically that I never once felt like I was being told a story.  Perkins wasn’t feeding us lines designed to make us swoon; she was tapping into every secret thought that we have ever had about our own love lives.IslaHappilyEverAfterSmall

Isla is a good story, but unfortunately for me, I never lost myself to it like I have with Perkins’ previous works.  Overall, I found Isla to be an engaging protagonist, and I admire Perkins’ decision to let her remain somewhat of a wallflower.  Anna and Lola both have such vivid passions and personalities that, with Isla, it was nice to see the shy girl get the spotlight for a change.  I related to Isla’s struggles regarding her future.  I had those same conversations at many points during my late high school years and early twenties, and I still struggle with the fact that, while I tend to get obsessive about my interests, they never develop into anything that I could truly consider a passion or a calling or anything that allows me to identify myself.  I would have loved to delve further into Isla’s doubts, in fact, but unfortunately we never get that chance.  What we get instead is a whirlwind, quixotic romance that could have been just as fulfilling as Anna’s and Lola’s respective tales if it had been fleshed out a bit more.

I understand that Perkins wanted to give us a different type of love story.  In Anna, we got a slow-burn friendship-turned-more;  in Lola, a resurrected romance.  Isla offers up something suspiciously close to instalove, though thankfully she avoids delving into those waters full-force.  Isla has yearned for Josh for years, and I believe we are to assume that Josh has reciprocated those feelings, despite the fact that they have barely spoken to each other.  Once they do strike up a tentative friendship, though, there is enough genuine connection between them that I bought the relationship, even if it moved at a rather quick pace.  Still, while reading, I couldn’t help but shake my head at the plausibility (and validity) of falling in love in a month.  For those of us jaded by having already weathered our teenage and twenties years away, Isla’s urgent, awe-struck voice felt too naïve at times.  I believe that love can be found and experienced at any age, and that a relationship is of no less value simply for being formed during the tumult of youth.  I don’t discount anyone’s ability to love, but I do take issue when I’m told, repeatedly, of that love when I don’t see the groundwork for its formation.  During the few conversations that Isla and Josh have, I was sold on their chemistry, but there simply wasn’t enough.  I’d all but written off the inevitable falling-out halfway through the book as the obvious consequence of two young people who are mistaking lust for love, or at least the desire for love for the real thing. 

And then, on my way to work this morning, I remembered something; I once fell in love with a boy after having dated him for four weeks, and we have now been happily together for six years.  That being said, I am intimately privy to the conversations and glances and touches that comprised our discovery of each other during those four weeks leading up to the big romantic revelation.  And I’m sure that Perkins intended for her readers to assume a similar getting-to-know-you period for Isla and Josh; she just didn’t let us see it.  And to be honest, I’m not quite sure what filled up the majority of the book’s narrative, because it felt as if this book was at once entirely focused on the romance between Isla and Josh (to the detriment of fleshing out secondary characters, as was done so well in her first two books) and yet, having finished their story, I’m still not entirely sure who either of them is.  I don’t know why Josh was drawn to Isla from the beginning, or what made him fall in love with her now.  Inadvertent breast-gazing and strolls through bookstores are cute fillers, but there wasn’t one single conversation between the two that allowed me to see how a connection fueled by outward attraction could be sustained in the long run.  What’s more disappointing, while Perkins focuses so heavily on the supposed attraction between these two, none of their interactions gave me butterflies like the ones I got during the movie theater scene in Anna, or when Anna calls St. Claire Etienne for the first time,  or when Cricket helps Lola fix her hair.  The spark was so close to being there, but it never ignited for me. 

 I think that, had Perkins expanded this story out past her main characters a bit more to focus on the other people in Isla’s life, or even on Isla herself, I could have forgiven what I see as a somewhat overworked romance story.  I get the sense that Perkins spent a bit too much time worrying about getting all of the pieces to fit together neatly, and the aftermath of serious editing is that the story lost some of its heart.  I like Isla and Josh, but until I am more fully convinced of why they love each other, I simply can’t love them as a couple.

That being said, Isla is far from a bad novel and is perfectly delightful in its own right.  Perhaps if Perkins hadn’t had two truly remarkable titles leading up to this one, a lack of comparison would have made me more inclined to love this book. 

PS- I truly hope that we one day get an alternate narration of one particular scene that occurs toward the end of the book.  You’ll know when you get to it.

threecuprating

Advertisements

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Characters I would Switch Places with for 24 Hours

1. Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Obviously, this series is my number one priority in terms of getting to live in it myself (my recent trip to the Wizarding World only strengthened my belief that Hogwarts would be the greatest place to live in the world). I see more of myself in Luna than in any of Rowling’s other characters (though Hermione is a close second), and if I had to stand in someone’s shoes for a day, I’d pick Luna hands-down. She’s smart, quirky, doesn’t care what others think, loves eccentric animals, has a brave sense of fashion, and just so happens to be a fellow Ravenclaw.
2. Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
Ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to be Buffy. She never fails to have a quippy comeback at the ready, and, more to the point, she kicks ass. But since I haven’t read a Buffy-related book since high school, I’ll have to get my vicarious fighting kicks through Kate instead. Having Curran by my side would only sweeten the deal.
3. Clare from The China Garden by Liz Berry
Ever since I first picked this book up in high school, I have longed to visit Ravensmere. If I were to trade places with Clare for the day, you’d be hard-pressed to tear me away from this gloriously quaint-sounding village.
4. Anna from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Many will probably go with Lola from Lola and the Boy Next Door, but for me, Anna is the girl I’d want to be (and be friends with once my twenty-four hours were up). I’ve never been out of the country, so spending a day in Paris with a great group of friends and one swoony male named Etienne sounds like heaven.
5. Amy from the Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund
I switched majors from journalism to geography in college, and I was never a part of the Greek life, so the Secret Society Girl series represents an intriguing peek into the college experience that I never had. Granted, my decisions were made intentionally, so I don’t regret never having been in a sorority or other society, but Peterfreund’s series made me wonder what it would be like nonetheless.
6. Penelope from Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Whenever I read a historical romance or one of the classics, I can’t help but ponder what life would have been like as a woman living amidst the restrictions imposed by society, class, and corsets. As unpleasant as many of the details seem, though, I’d like to experience it if only for a day. I’m bypassing classic heroines like Lizzie Bennett and my beloved Jane Eyre here and instead going with a more lighthearted take on the general era.
7. Mercy Thompson from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
Originally I was going to go with Elena from Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. Then I remembered the excruciating pain that Elena experiences during transformation as a werewolf, and I decided that if I were really going to get my fuzzy alternate persona on, I’d be better off as a shapeshifter.
8. Lily from Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
Dressing in eccentric outfits, baking holiday cookies, browsing The Strand bookstore, and exchanging witty journal entry dares with a mysterious penpal…I’d trade places with Lily in a heartbeat.
9. Tish from Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson
This is yet another entry chosen solely for the opportunity to visit the wonderful world in which the story takes place. Sang sounds like an absolute trip, and one that I would gladly take.
10. Anyone from one of Sarah Addison Allen’s novels
I spent the better part of ten minutes trying to choose one of Allen’s novels, but I honestly cannot limit myself to only one. As a North Carolina resident, I could pretend that I do actually live amidst the subtle magic that winds itself throughout all of Allen’s narrative threads, but it’s simply not the same. None of the trees in my backyard throw enchanted apples at me, and the wallpaper doesn’t change to reflect my mood. I long to be a part of the quietly magical realm that Allen has created.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books for People Who Like X Author

I decided to mix it up and interpret this week’s theme a little bit differently.

1. If you like Neil Gaiman, try Tim Powers.
Powers is a master of his class, yet unfortunately his name isn’t nearly as well known as it should be. His works take work, though; Powers is quite the ambitious author, often utilizing existing cultural figures to construct alternative histories replete with lamias, psychotic serial killer clowns, werewolves, time travel, and the gods.
2. If you like John Green, try David Levithan.
So this won’t come as a shock to many of you, especially since these two authors have actually collaborated before. (If you haven’t read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, do so immediately). Still, for those of you not in the know, Levithan’s writing often reaches the exhalted heights of wry youthful optimism that Green is so famous for.
3. If you like Ilona Andrews, try Seanan McGuire.
The Toby Daye series exhibits some of the best worldbuilding and characterization in urban fantasy today. For those who love Kate Daniels’s toughness and capability coupled with a quick wit and unbearable sexual tension, you’re missing out if you’re not reading about Toby.
4. If you like Holly Black, try Rob Thurman.
Though I’ve mentioned this before, I’ll say it again: Cassel Sharpe and Cal Leandros would be best buds. Though the worldbuilding in each series is starkly different, they share an easy and sarcastic narration that strikes a chord with my cynical nature.
5. If you like Diana Wynne Jones, try Megan Whalen Turner.
These two remarkable ladies drew inspiration from each other’s writing, and it shows in both of their most ubiquitous narrators. I would have loved to read a crossover book starring Gen and Howl.
6. If you like Kristin Cashore, try Sherwood Smith.
If you’re a fan Cashore’s lush prose and mixture of romance, political intrigue, and fantasy, you’ll find all that and more in the Crown Duel duet. Mel is a great heroine, and while there is slightly less magic in Smith’s work, the feel is very similar to that elicited by Cashore’s series.
7. If you like Karen Marie Moning, try Anne Bishop.
While Moning’s Fever series and Bishop’s Black Jewels series have little in common, they will forever be linked in my mind since I discovered them (and fell in love with both) in a short two-month period. Despite their differences, I believe that fans of Moning’s dark fantasy tone will be able to appreciate Bishop’s world and the ambiguously drawn characters that inhabit it.
8. If you like Stephanie Perkins, try Cath Crowley.
Perkins is undoubtedly one of the hottest names in young adult contemporary, due mainly to her remarkable ability to write main characters who seem all at once too good to be true yet utterly believable. Crowley’s work is eminently relatable yet a little grittier than Perkins; still, fans of Perkins work will likely adore Crowley’s writing as well.
9. If you like Maggie Stiefvater, try Liz Berry.
I’ve adored Berry’s The China Garden for nearly a decade now. It’s lovely and unique and criminally unrecognized, especially considering the recent surge in interest for young adult paranormal. Fans of Stiefvater’s lyrical writing will recognize the same quality in Berry’s.
That’s all I’ve got this week. Happy Fourth, all ye readers!

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Authors I’d Like To See On A Reality Show

1. George R.R. Martin on Survivor

Considering how fond Martin is of killing off his characters (particularly those I actually happen to like), I’d get a kick out of seeing how long he would last before getting kicked off himself.

2. Stephanie Perkins on Project Runway

If Lola and the Boy Next Door convinced me of anything, it’s that I would love to see all of the fashions that Perkins described hit the runway for real.

3. Neil Gaiman on Face Off

Gaiman’s imagination seems to have no bounds, particularly when it comes to describing the strange and unexpected. I would love to see what crazy creatures he would come up with on this special effects makeup show.

4. Sarah Addison Allen on Top Chef

Allen’s descriptions of food culture set the perfect tone for her evocative, whimsical stories. I’ve lusted after so many of the dishes described in her stories, so I’d like to see her come up with some new culinary masterpieces.

5. Maria V. Snyder on Hell’s Kitchen

In contrast to Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen is louder, bawdier, and seemingly more cut-throat, so perhaps Snyder could put some her poisons knowledge to the test and cut back on the competition. (Of course I’m joking…sort of…)

6. Rob Thurman on Fear Factor

Thurman is one tough chick, as her kick-ass characters attest. I’d love to see how far she could make it, and whether she would ultimately succumb to chickening out or getting grossed out.

7. John Green on The Real World

Judging by his vlogs, it’s clear that Green is one of the most likable and hilarious people on the planet. I’m not even sure if The Real World is still on air (I suspect it isn’t), but I would resurrect it just to see more of A Day in the Life of John Green.

8. Seanan McGuire on American Idol

I’ve not actually heard any of McGuire’s music, although I’m aware that she has released several albums. It would be great to see someone mix things up on Idol for once, and perhaps drop a few hints about one Toby Daye in the process.

That’s all I’ve got for this week, since I don’t tend to watch much reality television.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reading Now

Boys of Summer Anthology edited by Steve Berman

The Week Ahead

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Reading Now

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

The Week Ahead

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books You’d Like To See Made Into A Movie

1. Nightlife by Rob Thurman

Filled with wry humor and things that go bump in the night.

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

A romcom with substance, this one would entirely depend on the soundtrack and choice of actors.

3. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

I adore cloak and dagger type fantasy, and this one has it in spades, with a kick-ass heroine to boot.

4. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This one would be all atmosphere and sparse dialogue and muted colors, and it would be beautiful.

5. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

I vote for this one simply to see one of my favorite and most feared villains come to life on the big screen.

6. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

A fresh gothic romance whose visual elements demand cinematic attention.

And three that I wish had been made into better movies.

7. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Alright, I admit it; I actually liked the first one before all the hype. It’s by no means literary gold or the portrayal of a healthy relationship, but it was romantic, and I envisioned it playing out like an indie film.

8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Neverwhere in my head is a wild and expansive thing, and the BBC version failed its surreal promise.

9. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

I understand that the sixties were a time apart film-wise, but this truly eerie classic calls for an update that allows the horror elements to shine.