Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

Monday, March 30, 2015

Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 14th, 2014
Pages: 360
Song I Played While Reading: I Wish You Would by Taylor Swift
Rating: 3 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.

As I've felt with the past couple of books I've read, I have mixed feelings on this story. There wasn't really a plot; instead, this spans a year and a half (ish) of Charlottes life, which definitely gives it more of a realistic feel instead of a whole bunch of crap happening in the span of a month or two. I found everything to be a little flat, definitely not glamorous, with the exception of a few scenes. I had a hard time emotionally connecting to the Buchanan's, though the ending definitely took me off guard and twisted my heart a little. No family deserves a tragedy. But I thought the way they handled it, and the way they handled Charlotte too, was just outright rude. So their appealing life was ruined for me. 
I liked Charlotte. She was easily relatable and I found myself thinking that I would have done all the same things she did. She wasn't super spunky, but wasn't super shy. She flowed down the middle and was content to watching this fascinating new world she was introduced to from the sideline, just like I would be. Plus she owned her tall stature. Of the tall narrators I've read from, she's one of the few who accepts it. And this made me like her a lot more because I'm slightly jealous of tall people.
The rest of the characters, like her friends from school, were refreshing. They all came from different backgrounds and did different things, but were a great bunch of girls. My favorite was Rosalie.
And of the Buchanan group, I think I liked Cordelia the most. She was the youngest and always tried to use big words, and I admired that about her (even though she usually mixed them up or butchered the pronunciation). 
I love a well executed past tense. Theres a sad finality to it, an inevitability that makes you wonder what went wrong. 

"Even knowing, as I do now, that grace, power, and yes, love, can hide the darkest elements of the human heart,  I would do it all again. Beginning with the night I met her, then him, then the rest. I would it all again just to know that for a moment I was one of the Great Buchanans."

Knowing you can't do anything about it, that all the false promises and whispered secrets will soon fall upon deaf ears, pulls emotions from you. Knowing is worse than being completely caught off guard because at least you were fully there in the moment. There was a future. You were excited. 
Bah, that just made me sound so morbid. I swear this book is 70% happy and fun. So if you enjoy a coming-of-age story about friendship and first love, with a glittering backdrop of finely-written places, then I recommend this one. 

""Charlie, I'm serious." She took both of my hands and slapped them together between her own. "Say you'll at least think about it. I want to run away and I want my best friend with me."
I would have promised her the moon, if it had been mine to give." 

“Before that night, I didn't grasp that the shadows that sometimes crossed her face weren't momentary clouds passing in front of the sun. Her deep silences were more than daydreams. And her habit of standing with her arms wrapped around her ribs was a way of holding herself together.
I didn't get there must be balance.
She couldn't hold so much life, light, and joy without also containing their opposites.” 

(Image and synopsis from Goodreads)

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