Engaging teen characters with page-turning love lives offer ample vicarious pleasures.
Petite, red-haired Isla (that’s “eye-la”) has had a hopeless crush on introverted artist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. Their chance meeting before senior year catalyzes a wish-come-true relationship that threatens Isla’s unusual friendship with best friend Kurt and makes her question her identity and future. Perkins’ characters are quirky and three-dimensional, and their sometimes-startling actions make them seem even more real: Isla and Kurt routinely share a bed; Josh depicts losing his virginity in his graphic novel; Isla and Josh enjoy a steamy weekend trip to Barcelona. They’re discovered, and Josh is expelled, but love persists despite distance and restricted phone privileges. In fact, their greatest threat comes from within—Perkins accurately depicts the kind of thinking that helps lovers invent their own problems: Isla’s insecurities (why should Josh love her when she doesn’t have a driving passion or vision of her future?) threaten the relationship (“I have to destroy what’s left of my heart before he can do it for me”). The titular “happily-ever-after” is as predictable as it is sweet, featuring fan-pleasing cameos of characters from Perkins’ two companion books.
A satisfying dose of first love’s physical and emotional thrall. (Fiction. 14 & up)