Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Publication Date: August 14, 2014
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 339 (Hardcover)
From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.
Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.
In the end, it's very hard not to be satisfied with this ending. Heck, we've been waiting three years for it! And I think that these three years of yearning and anxiety and excitement hurt this book. I was expecting something perfect that would completely knock me off my feet. And while I loved this novel, I can't say that it was perfect.
First things first, the characterization. Josh Wasserstein is amazing. He is in love with the idea of love and is as devoted to the concept of love as he is his amazing artwork. He's just perfect. Though Etienne is number one in my heart, Josh is a very close second. I don't want to ruin anything about him for readers, but know that he is the most thoughtful and perfect love interest. He gets ahead of himself at times, but I can't imagine him being any other way. Also, he's an artist...cue my instant melting and artistic fantasies.
And then there's Isla. I struggled with Isla. I loved her thought processes because she sounded like any other girl swooning over a guy she'd secretly been in love with for three years. But, at times, I was completely detached from her. She's almost obsessive in regards to her feelings for Josh. I don't feel like I got to know her the way I did Anna and Lola. Anna had movies, Lola had clothing and an awesome family that was part of the story, and Isla was obsessed with Josh. There was nothing to set her apart. Sure, she liked adventure stories, but I almost felt like they were an afterthought coming second to Josh. Josh was this story, and Isla wasn't as unique as I wanted her to be.
I have to give props to Isla's best friend, Kurt, as well. I haven't come across many autistic characters, let alone one that is so well done and not pitied. I enjoyed him and especially his friendship with Isla. Watching them grow together and learn to deal with new aspects of their changing lives together was refreshing. Yay for friendship!
Isla and Josh's relationship starts the summer before their senior year. Though they both attend the School of America in Paris, New York City is their home. On breaks and in the summer they reside mere blocks away from each other. Doped up on medication after having her teeth ripped out, Isla sneaks out to a cafe to get some soft food where she runs into Josh and they spend a loopy (and enjoyable) night together, never to see each other again until school months later. They're being together then happens in quick succession. I understand that Isla's been obsessed/in love with him for years, but he falls really fast and really hard. It's a month of blissful making out with no drama whatsoever. I understand that this is the way young love really is...it's either super slow because of nerves or disgustingly fast because passion is all-consuming and that's how it is for Isla and Josh. But I, as a reader, just wasn't feeling the pacing no matter how much I enjoyed them together.
Then, of course, there's the relationship drama. Face it, every relationship has it. But for Josh and Isla, it all comes full force at one time when everything as pure bliss before it. While I understand most of it was necessary, I don't think all of it was. There were certain moments that had me rolling my eyes. Instead of, I don't know, talking to Josh, Isla kept her feelings bottled up until they burst. Granted, most of their relationship issues stemmed from Isla being really insecure with her relationship with Josh, but it's hard to reconcile the really funny girl in the beginning of the story to the love-struck, insecure, slightly frustrating character that I found in the middle.
In the end, I liked how Perkins worked the romance. I like how their relationship grows (in the long run) and how Josh listens to Isla's rambles and issues. I like that they are both determined to make it work, but the progression is strange. It's the pacing and the fact that, at times, things seem jumbled together.
I also can't help but compare this Paris to Anna's Paris. I feel like this book was more of a travel guide than a book set in another country. I like to feel like I am transported there, a la Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard, and Venom by Fiona Paul. I just didn't get that spark with this one either, though this is more a travel nerd pet peeve then true fault with the story. At least I know some new sights I want to see when I study abroad next year?
The ending of this novel was perfect. I wouldn't change a thing. I squealed with genuine joy, and I was so happy with it. In truth, I was happy with this novel as a whole, but the middle was a little funky in comparison to the beginning and the very end. I often laughed, I was shocked a few times, but I set this book down with a warm feeling in my belly. What more could you ask for? I can't wait to see what Perkins produces for us next!