Thursday, October 16, 2014

What we're reading: Stephanie Perkins

Last year in 8+9 Book Club, one of our favorite books was Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins. Romance, angst, and set in Paris--how could it miss? I subsequently read the sequel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and while I enjoyed it and thought it was cute, I definitely missed the grand Parisian setting. So I was happy to learn that the third book, Isla and the Happily Ever After, took us back to boarding school in France.

We didn't get quite the scenic glory in this book that we received in Anna. There was a lot more about events that took place in Isla's dorm room than there was about the streets of Paris! But the protagonists--Isla, who makes a brief appearance in Book One, and Josh, the moody class-cutting artist who was a vital part of the group around Anna and St. Clair--are interesting, and I lived vicariously through their eventual joint revelation that each liked the other but was deterred by assumptions that the other didn't like them. (Haven't we all been there?) Josh, of course, had an all-too-visible girlfriend in Book One, and in this book we discover that Josh thought Isla was also romantically involved, with her life-long BFF, Kurt.

Casa Battlo, Barcelona
Kurt was one of the twists I liked the best in this book--he is a high-functioning autistic boy, and his sometimes awkward honesty is refreshing! One of my other favorite elements was the description of Josh's drawings--Perkins "pictured" them beautifully and made me want to rush to the closest comic book store to see if Josh's graphic novel had been published yet! (Hint: Stephanie, make friends with a cartoonist and do a graphic spin-off!) I also loved the descriptions of Gaudi's works in Barcelona, and I even liked the (slightly cheesy) cameo appearances of Anna, Etienne, Lola, and Cricket.

I did feel that the story was a little contrived in places--a bit too black and white without enough grays. I occasionally felt manipulated, and I found some of the things that were done and said by the characters too hard to believe. But I will say that perhaps I just didn't sink far enough into my 17-year-old self when I read this one, and my middle-aged mind is being picky. I did enjoy the book quite a bit, and would recommend it without reservation! Well, with one reservation--this book is definitely for high school and up, due to mature content.

Four stars out of five from me.

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