Any author that has the guts to use an opening line like “It’s midnight, it’s sweltering, and I might be high on Vicodin, but that guy — that guy right over there—that’s him” will get their reader hooked. Thus was the case when reading Isla and the Happily Ever After. The title gives it away, that there will be a happy ending but readers will not remember it for it’s ending — though that is fairytale-ish good too. No, it will be remembered for the intricacies of the characters Stephanie Perkins brings out. Set at a private school in France, Isla is a junior who has kept to herself most of her freshman and sophomore year. She is the highest ranking person in her class of only 24 elite students. Both of the past two school years she has had a huge crush on Joshua Wasserstein. In this opening scene, they are actually both back in New York City for the summer and Isla’s dental work has left her loopy with the confidence she’d never have had to talk to Josh. This chance and single meeting sets the spark for all of the stars to align. The plot really picks up once they are back at school in the fall. But it’s not all Josh and Isla. Perkins creates a wonderful best friend companion of Isla in Kurt. Kurt is has Asperger’s, the high functioning form of autism, that tells Isla how it is without the mush that best girl friends would have likely brought to the scenes. Kurt is a guy who wants Isla’s attention because they’ve been friends since they were in diapers. This creates tension, of course, but the maturity in which the characters all handle it is a lesson for all teens to learn from. There’s passion that’s slightly graphic. But there’s drama without a lot of drama and the scenes clip along at a nice pace, especially as the main conflict begins to unfold. For being a student who studies abroad, Isla’s insecurities don’t always ring true, but that could also be a reminder that even the most confident people on the outside have worries too. There is the happily ever after, of course, so upper high school readers who like the Sarah Dessen, Deb Collasanti books will find another author right up their alley in Stephanie Perkins.