Anna, Lola, & Isla

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At the start of 2014 I made myself a challenge to explore more of the YA genre. I started to realise that the reason my reading slowed down so much over these past few years was that it was hard to jump from one complex fantasy world to another without some cool-down time. The solution to this was to fluff out my reading habits with some… well, that word exactly: fluff. So after moving to Madrid and just needing something simple and soppy (but still with quality writing, you can take the girl out of the English degree…), I decided I’d read a book I’d been hearing about for years: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I was an English girl in Spain, so the whole American in France thing appealed to me, and I’m glad I gave it a chance.

Anna was a cute book. It was simple enough that I could read it before bed after ten hours of class without getting a headache, but quality enough to actually keep me interested. I liked the protagonist, Anna, for the most part. Although I really hate the whole ‘we have known each other for two days and we are in love lol’ aesthetic that YA romance novels seem to revolve around. You’re not in love, you’re a child. I just take it with a spoonful of sugar and think that they’re gonna realise this in their early twenties and break up anyway, so I’ve learned to ignore these moments.  Her obsession with that guy back home was that really, an obsession. It was a weird little side plot that I could have done without, but the book overall kept me gripped enough to finish it in two sittings. St Clair seemed to be one of those too perfect YA boys, and I think if I would have read this book at 16, I would have loved him a lot more. But he just seemed like a bit of a twat really. The characters were a bit one dimensional, but I didn’t really start the book with high expectations, so I guess that’s okay. I liked it, which is the most important thing, but it’s definitely not a particularly memorable book.

The day after I finished the first book, I moved onto the second instalment: Lola and the Boy Next Door, which I guess you could say is a testament to the first book/series overall, because I liked it enough to continue. Going into Lola, I didn’t think I’d like it as much, but I actually think it turned out to be my favourite book of the series. I liked that their was actually some background already between Cricket and Lola. It definitely made the whole angst-y teenage love thing more believable. One of my main problems with Anna and Isla are that they aren’t really described in that much detail, probably so hordes of teenage girls can project themselves onto them à la Bella Swan from Twilight. But Lola was so out-there and so wacky, she became distinct. At first I thought I’d hate Lola because of how different and quirky she was, but it actually seemed believable and not too try hard, which was a pleasant surprise to me. Her relationship with Cricket definitely seemed more natural too, although it still did include traces of the whole ‘sooooo in love but we haven’t even kissed’ thing. I guess it helped that she’d had a crush on him when she was like five, so her delusions were a tad more believable. And even though I was rooting for them to get together, much like Anna and St Clair, they’re totally gonna break up in college. No doubt. I was also a fan of the integration with the first novel, the characters were important to the plot but the interactions didn’t feel forced as to link the two books somehow. It was actually kind of nice seeing how the characters were getting on, although I definitely found them both more insufferable in Lola than in Anna.

Then, following the pattern, the day after I finished book two, I started Isla and the Happily Ever After. I really thought I’d love this one. Paris is great, New York is great, Barcelona is close enough to Madrid that I’m gonna guess it’s great too. But I didn’t. This wasn’t a love story, it was an obsessive crush story. Even more than the other two were. Isla is jealous, fanatical, and actually kind of boring. I feel like I don’t know anything about her. Anna liked to review films, Lola wanted to be a designer, Isla liked… reading books about adventure? I get that her lack of direction in life was supposed to be some sort of plot point to make her ‘relationship’ with Josh even more ~*~spehsheeeeell~*~, but it really just came out like she was a one dimensional character whose only interest in life was this one guy. Even Josh, a character I quite liked in the first book, was just so bleh throughout this. Oh no I’m so privileged, my life is terrible waaaah. It wasn’t a real relationship, it was just a lot of talking about sex. ‘Yes, I’ve had sex… hey, let’s have sex… oh my god I can’t believe you were having sex with your ex-girlfriend when you were dating, how dare you?… let’s have sex some more and awkwardly call it making love’. Ugh, just stop.

Even in the first two books, the locations (Paris and San Francisco) seemed to be relevant to the story and actual plot points themselves. But this book had three locations, and I felt like none of them where relevant. The story could have been happening in London or Beijing or Melbourne. Except for the occasional references to landmarks, the places barely seemed important. I also mentioned that in Lola I liked the inclusion of the characters from Anna, but in Isla I felt the entire scene was really forced. And that part with St Clair and Anna? Give me a break. I get that it was a nice way to wrap up the trilogy, but come on. It was obviously my least favourite book of the three, and just felt kind of lazy. It still wasn’t terrible, especially compared to some YA romance I’ve (attempted to) read, but compared to its two predecessors, it just fell flat.

I think that Anna and St Clair will break up when they’re 22. They’ll be unhappy for about a year before that, but they’ll feel compelled to stay together to prove something to people. However, eventually, one of them is going to crack and they’ll have a super messy breakup. Lola and Cricket might have lasted the longest, because they seem the least obsessed with each other out of the three couples, but somewhere in her first or second year of college, Lola is gonna want to ‘see what’s out there’ or something and they’ll break up… probably some what mutually as I bet the feeling is mutual on both ends. Isla and Josh? If they manage to last the summer together, they’ll break up some time before they go home for Christmas. Isla will probably go crazy and start mailing bits of her hair to Josh and he’ll have to get a restraining order.

Overall though, the series is pretty good. I’d give the first two books four out of five stars, and the final one a mere three stars. I’d still encourage you to read them though, if not just to laugh out how quickly they think they’ve fallen in love.

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Author: Rosanna Parrish

Brit exiled in Spain.

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