Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna #3) by Stephanie Perkins

Quick review for not so much of a quick read. Don’t look at me like that – I blame the rabbits, you hear? I BLAME THEM.

No, on a serious note – “Isla and the Happily Ever After” should have grabbed me more than it did for the anticipation of this last book in the “Anna” series. I can’t complain too much because it is a fluffy read and quite a few times I chuckled at the interactions of the characters. I was also able to picture such interactions – at least in the beginning – rather well.

But then at some point, the narrative started dragging its heels for me. That shouldn’t have happened because, for the record, I love slice of life stories, and I’ve liked Perkins’ humor and narrative styling in the past. Josh and Isla are a cute couple, but I felt like there was very little as distinct and defining for them as a paring and individually versus St. Clair and Anna, or even Lola and Cricket. Their overarching conflicts in this story aren’t even as strong as the aforementioned couples, and some moments happened so quickly that it was hard to savor them. One of the things that I really enjoyed about “Anna and the French Kiss” was its shared attention to place, characterization, the conflict (even if I didn’t care much for the cheating scenario), and how that progressed over time. Even “Lola and the Boy Next Door” had a bit more meat for the conflicts and development despite some cliches. But this didn’t quite delve as much into the characters and their experiences enough for me to really connect with them. Some might say it’s their privileged lifestyles, others may say it was the attention to them hooking up, some might say that the art focus didn’t provide enough lift to support the narrative. I would say it’s a combination of those three things and then some that provided the disconnect for me.

Then, there was the rabbit thing. I had no idea about that before picking up this book and now that I know, I seriously think some imaginary rabbits probably tore some pages out of this book and made off with the darned storyline, because after that point, I thought: “I can’t think about this in any other way henceforth. It’s just so awkward it’s funny among other things.” I get that the whole reference was meant to be humored, but it’s like the story had a train going for me and it just completely derailed as far as my experiences went. I feel bad saying that, but it’s true.

I did like that we had at least a reunion between the characters of the series, but it did feel a bit empty, probably because I haven’t read the other two books in a while and also that the connections themselves felt loose and put there for the sake of just having that one significant scenario (hint: St. Clair and Anna) kind of try to tie it into a HEA.

Isla almost would’ve been a better short story or novella than a full novel to me because of the length of time and the measures it explored. It felt longer than it should’ve been for the respective conflict and establishment of the relationships here. Or maybe the relationships should’ve been better rooted to some extent. I’m not sure, but it definitely felt like something was missing in the appeal to me for this book. Quirkiness doesn’t cover development where development should stand, and I felt that was lacking in this narrative compared to Perkins’ other works in this series.

I thought it worked for what it was: a fluffy read, but I still think it could’ve been much better than it was, both for anticipation as well as knowing what Perkins has already done with respect to her narratives. And that disappointed me a bit.

Overall score: 2.5/5 stars

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