Stephanie Perkins does the intensity of teen romance better than most authors I can think of. I loved Anna and the French Kiss and was looking forward to reading this one. And while Isla and the Happily Ever After wasn't my favorite of Perkins' three books, there were things I liked about it.
Perkins has a gift for transporting readers to new places: here, she revisits Paris, but also gorgeously conveys parts of Spain, and even New York. I found myself longing to revisit (and visit) some of the places after reading her descriptions.
And I liked Isla, though other reviewers haven't, because to me, feeling like a "blank slate" and not knowing what you want to do with your life feels true to being a teenager. Not everyone knows who they are or where they are going.
Where the novel failed me a little was in the romance. Not that there aren't a lot of heated kisses (and more) here. Rather, I was a little disappointed to start with Isla already pining for Josh, because part of what I love about romances is seeing how the characters fall for each other. And it wasn't clear to me why she adored Josh--though it was clear that she did. While it was fun to watch her shock as Josh started to reciprocate, it wasn't quite the same. (And yes, I know this is personal preference and not the fault of the author!)
What really frustrated me, though, was that after establishing this intense romance, the characters sort of self-destructed. Their separation, though sad, seemed self-inflicted. And Isla's insecurities and the way she torpedoes her own relationship just didn't make sense to me. I hadn't seen any sign of those insecurities until suddenly they manifested, so it was hard for me to buy her motivations. I know that a romance has to have some kind of block or there's no point to writing about it, but the obstacles here were a little too much--especially given everything Isla and Josh *did* have going for them.