Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Happily Ever After with Bumps Along the Way

The story of the School of America in Paris continues with two new characters who are intertwined with the lovable characters you never wanted to give up in the previous two books. In Isla and the Happily Ever After, Stephanie Perkins does what she does best: she gets you to love two human and lovably flawed characters you can't live without even after the last page is turned. 

Isla has always had a crush on Josh her entire time in Paris. Unfortunately, he has never noticed her. Or so she thought. After a chance encounter, it appears she may have misjudged Josh all along. And he has definitely misjudged her relationship with her best friend Kurt. With all the information set straight, Isla and Josh start spending more and more time together, and their connection is undeniable to everyone around them, even friends like Kurt who begin to feel like the third wheel in a whirlwind romance. 

Like most real adolescent romances, not the kind in books, Isla and Josh's future is uncertain and paved with bumps and bruises. Isla is used to life with Kurt, her socially awkward but devoted best friend who can spend the night in her room and not set off any red flags. She is used to always being herself and having Kurt, who has Asperger's, tell her the truth even when she doesn't want it. But a relationship is different. Especially when she already has one very important person in her life. And Josh's life is no easier. The son of a politician engaged in a fierce campaign, his antics have landed him on his final warning at the school, and expulsion would most certainly embarrass his family in ways only the son of a politician could understand. But Josh is daring. And he can't resist showing sheltered Isla a little taste of the world, even if the consequences could tear them apart. 

This is a romance story for the realist in you. Don't expect a perfect story all wrapped up in a bow, but then again, if you like real characters who could be your own friends and family in all their flawed glory, this is the right romance for you! Stephanie Perkins has been as special to me as Sarah Dessen for a long time, and I waited what felt like an eternity for this book, and I wasn't disappointed, but I was definitely surprised by it! Perkins' realism is standard, but this relationship felt so real for two teenagers, I was actually surprised! While some might be turned off by this approach, I also think there are enough teenagers out there who are interested in seeing their own bumbling, awkward, passionate, life-or-death feelings aren't abnormal. Do you remember what it meant to be a teenager in love? I was strange, exhilarating, awkward, and fabulous all in one breath. And that is why I loved Isla so much. It was like being transported to that place all over again (without having to be the actual punching bag for emotions and hormones we all were! So much more fun from afar!).

There was this one part where Josh sends Isla his comic book memoir, and it truly chronicles everything in his life- even the girls before Isla. It is so honest and vulnerable, yet the unforeseen consequence was that it was more than Isla really wanted to know. Just the idea that Josh would bare his soul to her and not see how hurtful it could be to an insecure young woman was so real, it was palpable. This is just one small example of why this book was such a great story for all those young adults in your life. It may look like a cushy romance on the outside, but once you get into the thick of it, you realize just how special the story is. Perkins hits another one out of the park!

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