Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: October 14, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator’s daughter. Most people do... or think they do. Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than-life-new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia’s handsome older brother, Sebastian. But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden … until now."St. Anne's boarding school is filled with teenagers from wealthy and prominent American families, unless you are a scholarship student. And that is the case for Charlotte Ryder, an aspiring artist and sort of social wallflower. Everything changes for Charlotte one night when she helps out intoxicated Julia Buchanan, a popular and wealthy girl at school. Julia appreciates Charlotte's help and takes her under her wing, even renaming her Charlie. Julia bringing her into her fast-pace world of money, parities, and mansions The two become attached at the hip and Charlotte even spends time with the Buchanan family at their summer home. Except there are many layers to the Buchanan family that Charlie must peel back slowly in order to figure out the truth as their family history has been paved in secrets and tragedy. Plus, Charlie is starting to have feelings for Julia's brother, Sabastian, and finds herself intertwined into their family even more than before. Chelsey Philpot's debut, Even in Paradise, is a sad sort of novel and one that reminded me of The Great Gatsby meets Gossip Girl. Readers who like stories about privileged families and secrets will enjoy this deep novel.
Once Charlotte met Julia her world changed immensely in Even in Paradise. She started sneaking out of her dorm, going by the name Charlie and living a bit more dangerously. She would even visit the Buchanans at their summer house on Nantucket, which is very much different than the world she is accustomed to as a scholarship student. She learns that the Buchanan family has some secrets, especially surrounding the untimely death of Julia's sister. Julia and Charlie's relationship becomes a little too close to the point where I felt it was unhealthy. She was too immersed into the family, even dating Sebastian, Julia's brother. I sort of knew where this was going.
Julia had that Jay Gatsby vibe in Even in Paradise. She was charismatic, rich, and sometimes unreliable. She threw caution to the wind on many occasions, drank too much and harbors many secrets. Ultimately, she wasn't over the death of her sister, Gus, and there was definitely a cloud of sadness that followed her. I could definitely pick up on the Gatsby vibe regarding the character of Julia. But the problem with Even in Paradise is I didn't care enough about the characters; I was merely along for the ride.
I liked the whole aspect of a Kennedy-esque family taking in a working class girl and Charlie sort of becoming one of them, but I could see where this was headed in Even in Paradise. Even though the twist was a tad predictable, I found the writing and the overall story to be somewhat compelling. It didn't "wow" me and wasn't my favorite debut, but I could appreciate this quiet story focusing on families, power, love, and secrets.