Review: Even In Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

Even In Paradise Chelsey Philpott
Even In Paradise Chelsey Philpott Cover

Title: Even In Paradise 
Author: Chelsey Philpot 
Series: Stand-alone 
Genre: Contemporary, YA 
Publication date: October 14, 2014 
Rating: ★★★½ 

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.

I don’t think the synopsis given here does the book credit. Reading it, you expect this to be a story like there are a thousand others. A cliche from the very beginning to the very end. Poor girl meets rich girl and gets sucked into a new world. And I guess in many ways this is true, but it is definitely not what defines this book or what makes it stand out.

Even knowing everything, I would have chosen the same. It's only in hindsight that we can point, as easily as finding a town on a map, to the moments that shaped us, - the moments when choices between yeses and noes determined the people we become.

From the moment the book starts you know that whatever happiness Charlotte Ryder will find with the Buchanans is not going to last. The book is written in past tense. She looks back on a time in her life that profoundly changed her and has left her filled with both happiness and inevitable sadness. It’s a story of nostalgia. A story of not regretting anything even though in her heart she’d always known it wouldn’t last. A story of gaining and losing and finding herself.

For a time, I missed them like winter misses warmth. I could not breathe without her. I could not feel without him.

It weren’t the events themselves so much as the emotions that drew me in. The created atmosphere was intoxicating. There was this cloud of glamour, beauty, wealth, mystery and poisonous love surrounding the Buchanans. They were so rich and spoiled it was almost disgusting. Yet so compelling you were captivated before you realized it. I don’t think I liked Charlotte or any of the Buchanans very much, but together they clicked. They were an irresistible force. There was no way Charlie could have distanced herself from them when they were so ready to give her the world.

I was becoming that girl. The one who drops all her old friends when a new, exciting one comes around. I knew what I was doing and I couldn't help myself. I didn't want to.

Charlie is no match for the seduction Julia’s life offers or for her brother Sebastian or any other member of the family. They surround her with so much love she gives them everything she is in return. But the longer she stays the more she realizes she will never truly be a part of it. There’s darkness in the Buchanan hearts however hard they try to hide it. The way they cling to her and she to them is not healthy. They rely on her to save them and that’s not a responsibility anyone should ever have.

They were perfect. They were flawed. They were scarred and beautiful. They were too familiar with death and clung to life by clinging to one another. The Great Buchanans were only human, after all.

I don't belong here, Sebastian. I'm just a visitor who stayed too long. I need to walk away now or I’ll never go. I need to figure out who I am when I’m not here.

I think the author lost herself in the atmosphere as well. Because all of it could have been executed more profoundly. She should have brought more depth into the characters. I’m not saying she should have made them more likable. I found it intriguing that I didn’t like them but still loved them somehow. Just that they could have been more complex. The same goes for a lot of scenes and dialogues. The big secret no one was willing to reveal was too predictable. I figured it out rather soon, which ruined a bit of the experience. There was a lot of French in the book and that I liked a lot. Especially because the author didn’t feel the need to translate the sentences. She left everything up to context. Admittedly, it was basic French for the most part. But then I found myself trying to imagine what it would be like for people who don’t know a lot of French and I guess they should at least have a chance at comprehending it.

Overall I liked this book more than I ever thought I would. Had the characters been built stronger I might have even loved it.

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