Isla has had a crush on Josh ever since their freshman year at the School of America in Paris. But one of the absolutes in her life is that Josh is unattainable, with his super-cool friends and his gorgeous girlfriend. Isla (pronounced EYE-la) figures her crush will stay just that: a crush.
But then, as their senior year starts, Josh is unmoored: his friends have graduated and it’s over with his girlfriend. And Isla discovers that he’s kind of had a crush on her all these years. After an awkward start, they fall into a full-blown romance, escaping one weekend to Barcelona to be alone. Which, unfortunately, sets off a chain of events that ends up threatening their relationship.
It’s a charming book, and Perkins has a knack for capturing that a sweet and tender sense of first love. I think I like Anna (from Anna and the French Kiss) and Lola (from Lola and the Boy Next Door) better than Isla as characters; Isla is insecure and somewhat needy. On the other had, Isla has a growth arc that’s pretty impressive, so even though her neediness bothered me on and off, I ended up touched by the way Isla changed. I also loved the art that ran through the book, because Josh is an artist. In fact, one of the sexier moments in a very sexy book was when Josh drew all over Isla’s body.
There are other elements to the story: Isla’s best friend is on the autism spectrum and she has to deal with other people’s perceptions of him. And she needs to figure out how to interact with her younger sister, who causes some trouble. But those elements add to the overall sense of sweetness. Plus, characters from Perkins’ other books briefly show up, and it was lovely to interact with them again.
Isla and the Happily Ever After is a good ending to this little trilogy.
Rated: High for a a half-dozen (or more) f-bombs, and several instances of teenage sex.