I don’t fall in love with fictional characters often, but when I do, they’re usually written by Stephanie Perkins.
Okay, that’s kind of a lie. I fall in love with fictional characters constantly, but no one writes modern YA romance like Perkins does. Isla is the last of three interconnected love stories, and if you haven’t read the first two, I highly recommend them. They’re not necessary before starting this, but I think reading them will heighten your enjoyment of Isla, with better understanding of a few characters and sly nods to events and people of the previous books.
Isla (Eye-la; the story behind her and her sisters names is amazing) has been in love with Josh for three years. The summer before their senior year together at a boarding school in Paris, she (with the help of some serious pain medication) finally manages to speak to him and sets of a chain of events that will alter both their lives as the crash together and then deal with the realities of their relationship.
I was going to save this book for my 26th review, I have others that I’ve finished already, but I couldn’t wait. When I got this baby in the mail yesterday, I dove right in and didn’t stop until I was done. I full admit to tears (top of page 299), happy sighs (bottom of page 326), more tears (page 313), and moments of remembering how it felt to be young and in love (pretty much all of it!). Perkins writes her characters in a way that you want to be friends them, to watch them grow up and figure out their lives. They all feel so real, so actualized. Neither Isla nor Josh is perfect, but neither is as screwed up as they think they are. While the first two characters in this trilogy, Anna and Lola, are wonderful, I felt myself connecting with Isla much more.
In high school I didn’t so much make friends as I accidentally fell into friendships. While all my friends had plans for their lives, college and beyond, I had no idea what I wanted to do. There would be boys who kissed me at a party, then ignored me the next day. I didn’t feel worthy of anything more. Like Isla, I pushed people away as they tried to get close. Better to get the inevitable heartbreak over sooner rather than later, right? Reading her story was taking a hard look at revisiting my own past, but in a way that didn’t hurt. Seeing her realize that her life wasn’t as black and white as she thought was more of a relief to me. It’s like when you see someone going down the same dangerous path you did, but then turning around. You’re happy for them that they’re not going to meet the same ends.
Perkins has a gift for writing characters you fall in love with and become invested in. This story wasn’t just about Isla and Josh, but the glimpses of Anna and St. Clair, of Lola and Cricket. She ends the trilogy by hitting all the right notes and making you feel that it’s not just about Isla’s happy ending, but all of theirs. It was sweet, satisfying, and I’m going to be reading it again very soon.