October 16, 2014

Even in Paradise - Chelsey Philpot

Even in Paradise Chelsey Philpot book cover
Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

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.

There is a mesmerizing quality to Even in Paradise, a certain je ne sais quoi to this tale that makes it absolutely riveting. The basic premise? Charlotte Ryder, our narrator, shares the time in her life that revolved around the golden clan of the Buchanans. It is filled with a little bit of everything: opulence and adventure, mystery and romance, friendship and family. On a superficial level, it seems beautiful and untroubled; but the novel digs deeper and reveals to readers that everything isn’t always what it seems.

Charlotte is easy to like. She’s smart, creative and a genuinely good person (even though she sometimes makes unintentionally bad choices). Her kindness is the reason she meets Julia; it is also the reason she manages to secure a spot for herself in the Buchanan world. What’s most interesting about Even in Paradise, however, is how Charlotte’s character development. Readers will witness her getting swept up in the allure and mystery of Julia, and the Buchanans. The things that happen to her and the things she sees happening to others changes her in many ways, and Philpot deftly, subtly weaves that into her tale.

Philpot depicts the Buchanans as a glorious ideal, in spite of a few skeletons in the closet, and it’s not hard to see why they’re so appealing. Julia Buchanan, Charlotte’s best friend, is complicated, spinning from high to low, from still to movement, constantly. But she’s the kind of whirlwind you’d want to be a part of, because she’s so friendly and generous and enthusiastic, so it’s not hard to understand why Charlotte liked her. 

There’s also Sebastian, one of Julia’s older brothers, who is intriguing with his peculiar habits, unexpected statements and kind heart. Bradley, Julia’s oldest brother, who comes across as typical male, but is unexpectedly kind. Cordelia, Julia’s younger sister who is a sweetheart, a darling, and clearly beloved. Julia’s parents, her politician father and society mother who care deeply for their children. Sophie, Julia’s nanny, who is like a second mother. And then there Gus, Julia’s older sister, who passed away before this story, but whose presence lingers in the lives of the Buchanans all the same. I fell in love with each one of them as much as Charlotte did.

Even in Paradise, in terms of story, is not something that has never been done before. The difference, to me, lies in the execution. It was really well-done! Philpot balanced a compelling story filled with spontaneous adventures and good moments, even as readers will feel an underlying sense of sadness and discord. The emotional complexity was really surprising, but in the best of ways, and definitely played a huge part in making this story stronger.

All in all, Even in Paradise was a pleasant surprise. Though initially I was worried I would either feel like it was cliché or not be able to like the characters, I shouldn’t have been: Philpot reeled me in little by little as she told Charlotte’s tale. With characters that reminded me of The Great Gatsby, a modern feel that reminded me of Great and complex relationships like those in We Were Liars, Even in Paradise is definitely an impressive debut.

Do you still have any of your favorite childhood toys?

The stuffed animal I've had the longest is a white bunny from when I was a baby. It still sits among the stuffed animal pile in my room, lounging easily there and still pretty white (and not yellow). But the one childhood stuffed animal I've always held dear to my heart is a white teddy bear with a pink gingham ribbon I have, which I named Casey. When I was in kindergarten, we went on a teddy bear picnic in a clearing in the forest near our school and I brought Casey with me! Ever since then, I've been pretty attached to her.

(A more recent obsession worth sharing: collecting original Beanie Babies! I have a few back home in the Philippines, but I keep coming across some familiar favorites and just scoop them up right away. So far, I have my favorite black cat and a few others.)


  1. I can't wait to read this book! Great review and I love the cover!


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