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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Observant readers will learn about architecture, art, graphic novels, cartography, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Isla and Josh's adventures in Paris, Barcelona, and New York.
There are several wonderful messages in the book about self-esteem, friendship, and mature romance. But some parents might object to the way Perkins' couples tend to make adult plans about their relationships (living together, moving away together, even planning to get married) at such a young age.
Positive Role Models
Two of the best role models are Josh's and Isla's best friends, who encourage them and love them and want them to see the truth about their relationship. Isla and Josh force each other out of their comfort zones to really think about their futures.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Neither of the main characters is a virgin when the story starts. Once they start dating, they quickly start a physical relationship that escalates from making out to having safe sex. Desire for sex gets play as well. Josh draws naked images from his sexual history in an autobiographical graphic novel.
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Strong language is used but isn't excessive and includes "f--k," "a--hole," "bitch," and so on.
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Products & Purchases
Products and brands mentioned include iPhone and Apple.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Isla and Josh are 17 but drink socially in Europe (where the drinking age is 18). Underage Europeans also smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Isla and the Happily Ever After is the third and final installment in Stephanie Perkins' best-selling Anna and the French Kiss trilogy of companion novels. It will definitely appeal to teen girls familiar with Anna and Lola and the Boy Next Door, but new readers can still figure out what's happening. As in the previous two books, this is about a passionate romance between two seniors in high school. The love story can get pretty intense and has more sex than the previous two installments combined, but the scenes are described in a responsible, emotional manner. Readers will once again get to know Paris but also New York City and Barcelona, and there are references to famous works of art, graphic novels, and architectural landmarks. Strong language (including "f--k," "a--hole," and "bitch") is used but isn't excessive.
Is It Any Good?
Perkins is extremely adept at describing adolescent romance, expressing the profound way in which attraction and desire can overpower and overwhelm the senses. Her swoon-worthy first two novels came out less than a year apart in 2010 and 2011, but, due to the author's self-acknowledged depression, fans had to wait nearly three years for the last book to get published. The wait is finally over, and Perkins' third protagonist, Isla, doesn't fall in love after months of platonic friendship like Anna did or reconnect with a childhood crush like Lola did but rather immediately after years of unrequited longing. Isla has always wanted Josh, and now that Josh is finally single (he had a serious girlfriend all through junior year), everything comes together rather perfectly at first -- until Josh's risk-taking and broody family life (and Isla's crippling insecurities) get in the way.
It's no surprise that Perkins saved the steamiest romance for this final book. But there's something to be said for the slow burn from friends-to-more that formed the basis of her first two literary couples. This time, the passion has to be intense, because the conversational banter and buildup of romantic chemistry is replaced by the BOOM of crackling instant love. In other words, this is definitely more of a make-out book than the previous two. Isla and Josh have an undeniable connection and memorable adventures through Europe and New York, but, when the other two couples finally make an appearance, it's obvious they won't knock Anna and Etienne or Lola and Cricket off as Perkins' best couple.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.