Sadly, I have come to the end of reading the Anna and the French Kiss companion trilogy by Stephanie Perkins, consisting of Anna and the French Kiss (2010), Lola and the Boy Next Door (2011) and Isla and the Happily Ever After (2014). I can now confirm that my favourite book out of all three is Anna but I really enjoyed them all.
Just as a quick starting note I want to say how much I love Perkins’ style. Her books are so easy to just fall into and escape for hours. I really enjoy her descriptions of setting, for example, the bits set in Barcelona in Isla are so beautiful. Her writing has taken us to different countries and cultures and introduces so many fun characters.
What is the book about?
Isla and the Happily Ever After is about a somewhat clueless hopeless romantic who doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life besides fall in love with a guy named Josh. She has had a crush on Joshua Wasserstein since forever. Isla attends the School of America in Paris (SOAP) just like Josh and has always admired him from afar. This year it is her chance to get to know him and to discover that maybe he felt the same about her all along.
A fresh perspective
I really like how in this third book of her series Perkins examines a young relationship from a different angle. Both Anna and Lola are about looking for love whereas Isla is more about what happens when you do find it. Isla and Josh become a couple quite early on and they establish their feelings towards each other earlier still.
First two books = the two main characters of each end up getting together in the end
Last book = the two characters get together at the beginning and we see what happens from there
I think it is adorable that Josh liked Isla all along, just like she liked him, and he never made a move because of her best friend, Kurt (who he thought was her boyfriend). After that misunderstanding is cleared up, the two are free to build their relationship.
Also, the three main female characters from each book have very different background and different experiences of past relationships.
Anna = fancies Toph but he is not her boyfriend and then she meets St. Clair
Lola = has a boyfriend throughout most of the book who turns out to be quite a bad person
Isla = had a boyfriend previously but it was mainly just to see what it would be like to have a relationship and she really always likes Josh
Perkins explores all these different perspectives and finds subtle ways to interlink them so the main characters can help each other with their relationship knowledge, just like we learn from friends in real life. Each story is original enough to stand alone but all three stories come together so brilliantly as well.
I think Isla is quite a realistic character because she makes mistakes. In fact, none of Perkins characters are perfect which I think is great. It is easier to relate to characters when they are not perfect. I like how they all have little flaws which sometimes causes them problems within their relationships and friendships.
I love how much she likes Josh because I’m sure everyone can relate to having such huge crush on someone but not having the courage to ever talk to them. I like how she is not just a clique awkward girl, she is actually pretty confident but she just gets nervous around Josh (at first anyway).
Actually all of Perkins lead characters are quite confident in themselves, especially Lola who is very confident. They just portray that inevitable, nervous, butterfly-y feeling that you get when you talk to someone you like.
Isla also differs from Anna and Lola because she isn’t sure exactly what she wants from her future. Anna is into film and Lola is obsessed with costume, but Isla just wants to graduate and be with Josh. There are lots of people like this in real life and I think it’s really interesting that Perkins has explores such a wide range of characters.
I really like Josh as a character, although he still didn’t beat the wonderful St. Clair who will always be my favourite. I love his graphic novel that he shows Isla and continues to work on and improve throughout the story. It is my dream to write a fiction novel and I feel like when I actually write it, it will be hard, at first, to let people read it. And I appreciate that Josh shows his work to Isla as a way of expressing his feeling towards her. It is the ultimate self-disclosure for him because his art is such an expression of himself.
I love his creative nature and the way it drives his ambitions. I think Perkins is making a point that not all people are the academic, head-stuck-in-a-book type. Josh is punished for not taking school seriously but he is actually very passionate towards his personal career goals, he is just not interested in following school routine and curriculum. Obviously he goes the wrong way about it but he is a very determined character which I really like.
The other character I want to mention is Isla’s sister, Hattie. At first I thought she was merely going to be a character just for the sake of having an annoying someone for Isla to fight with. But, in the end, she becomes so much more significant to Isla’s character development and her overall happiness at the end of the story. I love the part near the end where she shows Hattie her hideaway and gives her the keys to the house. It is clear that it is the start a new friendship that we can imagine continued long after the book ended – just another part of Isla’s happily ever after.
St. Clair’s proposal to Anna is probably my favourite moment of all three books put together. I think it is so genius and it is actually quite unpredictable. I mean because the characters are young the whole thought of marriage never even crops up across the whole series, until that very moment. It is so cute and it just confirms that Anna and St. Clair are meant to be.
I love all the other links between Isla and the other two books as well. When all the other characters turn up towards the end and Calliope Bell from Lola is mentioned as well and then they go to the Olympics to watch her and it is just so cool how it all fits together.
Rashmi is also a huge part of this book even though she is never actually present. It is interesting that we read about Josh’s relationship with Rashmi before he even starts talking to Isla. It is like we can see his side of the story as well even though it is being told from Isla’s point of view which I think works really well. Sometimes certain things Isla says and does seems unreasonable because we know of Josh’s past relationship but then we can understand the jealousy factor too. Perkins makes sure we understand all the characters to a certain extent which makes it such an enjoyable read.
A perfect happily ever after to Perkins adorable series of little love epics.
I am going to give this book 5/5 stars (well done Stephanie, 5 stars all round).