Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Oh boy, what an amazing end to a series. I can’t believe it’s the end, but if it has to be, what a way to go. I was a bit skeptical at the start, but Isla won me over.
Perkins has such an essential, unashamed style that truly encompasses the teenage mind. It took me a few chapters to get used to the “Ohmygod” phraseology, especially just coming out of a dense prose like that of Thomas (We Are Not Ourselves). Isla is someone I could identify with immediately. She’s been admiring Josh from afar since she first saw him at school. He’s her dreamguy. She’s what many might label a “hopeless romantic.” What does it take to get the ball rolling with rebellious-yet-soulful-artist-boy Josh Wassertein? Being out of her skull on pain meds from wisdom teeth removal surgery, apparently, but hey if it gets her on Josh’s radar, it’s only a little embarrassing, right? Well, Isla doesn’t think so.

She’s got some insecurities, but they’re just amplified versions of common teenage anxieties. To say that her huge mega-crush on Josh affects her POV would be an understatement. Isla thinks of almost nothing else – though apparently she does think about schoolwork because she’s valedictorian – and even when she seems tied up in some other situation, her subconscious screams Josh. Obsessive at the start, she learns what it means to build a true relationship with someone. Suddenly all the details she’s lingered on for years are right in front of her, and she’s just trying to keep her head attached to her body, or avoid bursting into flames, or something. She carries her obsession with her into her relationship with Josh in a different form: intense analysis of every action and reaction between them. I found myself taken aback with how strongly her opinions came through the text because they’re more than just thoughts, they shift her entire point of view. When Isla sees a problem, the reader sees the problem also. It’s almost impossible to see things any other way. This makes for an interesting ending. As a reader, I was so drawn into Isla’s narrative that I initially completely agreed with her rationalizations. They made sense. She has solid reasons for her decisions. However, when she comes to question the truth of those reasons, I realized how fully her obsession had warped things out of proportion. This was an extremely masterful writing tactic, well done Stephanie Perkins. I did not see the ending coming at all. Honestly, when I started reading Isla, my initial reaction was “Wow, this can’t end well.” Isla’s mindset just seems so unhealthy, it’s hard to imagine the relationship working on any level. That being said, I think she really develops as a character. By the end, she’s been through the ups and downs of obsession and seen it drive things to the ground. I was surprised by how hopeful I felt at the end compared to how I felt at the beginning.
I don’t know how Stephanie does it, but I think her words just get to me more deeply than other authors. I basically can’t read her books in public. I’m always grinning like an idiot, but also occasionally squealing, throwing my hands in the air, and gasping in surprise. Yes, out loud. It’s all just so darn CUTE and I can’t control my reactions, which are often quite vocal.
One more note: as a book that ends a trilogy series, the ending did not disappoint. All the ends were tied up, and the three books came together in ways I was not expecting. It was kinda perfect.
Bonus! Check out this super cute dedication on the back of the title page:

Stephanie and Jarrod are seriously the cutest couple ever. A nerd love to reign over all others – her husband Jarrod is a super awesome wizard rock musician. I was at a panel at LeakyCon Chicago where Stephanie read sections from her diary when she first met Jarrod. They had been internet-dating for a time but when they finally met irl, it was the cutest thing ever. Probably cuter than any of the romances in Stephanie’s books. It’s easy to see why she is so good at writing teen romance novels – she basically lived one. sigh.

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