Author Stephanie Perkins made her name with the first book of this series, Anna and the French Kiss. And it's a goooood book. When I went to Paris, I wanted to experience the Paris Anna and Etienne St. Clair did in their grand teenage romance.
When I bought the third book, Isla and the Happily Ever After--in hardcover--I bought the book based on the faith that the author would deliver.
Yeah, that didn't happen.
Isla (not Is-la, but Ai-la, like island minus the nd sound) is a senior at an American school in Paris, the kind of place where privileged children attend because schools back in the States are for commoners, y'all. She's had a crush with this lonely, troubled Senator's son, Josh, since forever (beginning of high school, but you know how alike teenage years and dog years are) but he's only recently back in the market. Turns out, he's had a crush on her like forever too, but he's always thought Isla and her best friend Kurt are an item.
So, girl meets boy, boy meets girl, they fall in love, they go to Barcelona to have teenage sex, they get into trouble, things happen, and girl thinks boy doesn't love her as much as she loves him so she takes the preemptive strike and dumps him, and then she pines for her happily ever after.
There. An entire book in a paragraph sentence.
Oops. Spoiler alert.
Of course, Ms Perkins is a talented enough writer to keep me engaged with good characterization and writing, but there is. No. Plot. Whatsoever. As I read on, annoyed by Isla's self-absorbed insecurities, I kept asking myself, "What's the freaking point?"
Because life, as messy and twisted as it can be, needs to have a point. Our lives need to have a point or nothing matters. Even if your life, my life, doesn't have a direction, we need for it to matter. That's why we tell stories in the first place. We want to make sense of everything around us.
Wait. I hear you telling me that the summary above is teenage life in a sentence. That's the point in this book, that it highlights teenage romance. So I'll reply, "Romeo and Juliet is teenage romance. But it also has a point, a point that makes the story everlasting: love triumphs. Love transcends generations-old enmity, love transcends death."
This book, however, is just about a petite but pretty girl who's also the top of her class, who acts anything but. To use the author's own words, Josh, who's the object of Isla's affection and obsession, is merely a placeholder. He becomes her universe and she becomes consumed by it, but at the same time it's never about him, but about how she is a blank canvas that's desperate to be painted upon.
Kinda like Twilight, but at least Twilight has a point.
Mothers who champion women empowerment, mothers who wholeheartedly approve of Frozen, they'll want to reconsider before buying this book for their children (daughters and sons alike).
Sure. There are cameos by characters from the first two books. Sure, there's a surprise ending for those cameo characters that's just awesome (and begs to be told in detail), and sure, the saving grace in this book is its ending, which is just adorable, which means you'll have to bear with the book to get to that excellent part, but come on.
What's the point?
Also, there is no sense of place. Places are named, some descriptions are thrown in, but there is absolutely no sense of place. Not like the first book.
2/5 stars for me. The writing is good. Above average, in fact, but for an author who brought Anna and Etienne to life, this one's a major disappointment. It feels like a sellout, something produced to fulfil a contract. Not a project of love.