By: Larissa | December 3, 2014 | (30) Comments

Review: Even in Paradise by Chelsey PhilpotEven in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Drama, YA
Pages: 368
Source: Bought it
Goodreads | Purchase

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.

Having read The Great Gatsby  and adoring the beautiful novel, I was admittedly skeptical for a modern take on the classic tale- especially it being in the young adult genre. I was afraid that this novel would pale in comparison, quite frankly. It certainly wouldn’t include the atmospheric and poignant descriptions of the roaring twenties and the inevitable impossibility and resulting failure from trying to achieve the American Dream. However, I think that Even in Paradise stands on its own from The Great Gatsby and is an brilliant modernization. I would say that Even in Paradise  focuses more on relationships and memories- how both can have an profound impact on our identity, while the aforementioned plays more with the failure of unmet fantasies. When comparing the two I can see both differences and similarities, but both retain an nostalgic air and gorgeous lyrical  writing.

The Buchanans pull was as natural and strong as the moon on the tides, and when I was with them I was happy in the warmth of their reflected light.

The main character is drawn into the seemingly bright and idyllic life of the rich, and the reader is taken on a journey alongside that character. In Even in Paradise  that character is Charlotte Ryder, an observant inspiring artist. Her narration throughout the story was done in a all knowing sort of fashion, it was like she was looking back on these past events that inevitability led to where she is at the end of the story. It made me all the more curious to find out what caused Charlotte to look back on these memories. As more and more got revealed through these snapshots of her past life, I found myself completely and utterly immersed in the intoxicating world of the Buchanans- just like Charlotte. I believe that Charlotte was made to parallel Nick Caraway from  The Great Gatsby. While I can see the comparison through their observant natures, I found Charlotte a lot more easy to connect with. I also believe that by the end of the book she goes through character development and we really do see her “find herself” so to speak. However when compared to the larger than life Buchanan family I couldn’t help but find Charlotte to be a bit flat.

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

Charlotte’s relationship with the Buchanans (and specifically her new found best friend Julia) was nothing sort of captivating. On the outside you see these worldly and tight knit family. However, even if you just scratch at this seemingly perfect veneer you discover that there may be something more to their ghostly smiles. There’s a tragic event in the story which is slowly revealed through the family and you can feel its effect throughout all of the Buchanans. It effects them all in different ways; from Julia’s rebellious ways and her ever present sense of ennui to Mrs. and Mr Buchanan’s extravagant parties and constant need for positive affirmation. The family was inexplicably flawed, and the reader can see this even more so as Charlotte’s relationship to the family becomes one more of unhealthy dependency. However, the family was also charming and generous. The juxtaposition between the both worked wonders and really weaved a tale wrought with complexity, tragedy, happiness and nostalgia. With this family I couldn’t help but be transfixed, anguished and enamored. Through Charlotte’s memories of the Buchanans the reader gets an incredible emotional example of the human psyche

I wish for the same thing I’ve hoped for since the beginning. I wish for a life so brave, so unpredictable, so full of unexpected joys and unforgettable love that no box could possibly contain all of my memories.

There was a romance in Even in Paradise that was amazing in its subtlety. I felt like there was a lot more of it that went down behind the scenes. This just added to the enigmatic nature of Charlotte’s relationship in the story. The love interest in question was also quite a puzzle himself. I found myself loving the relationship highlighted and couldn’t help but find the snippets of the relationship we saw to be utterly beautiful. Though like most of the story, when there was great happiness and light  in life there was also complete tragedy and break down. I found that this factor played into the relationship, making it an perfect example of a bittersweet romance. It was the perfect combination of joy and pain, twisted just right to make the readers emotions seem akin to a roller coaster.

She couldn’t hold so much life, light, and joy without also containing their opposites.

I found reading this book to be truly an emotional psychological experience. I mean I went from smiling to crying during the ending to smiling again to feeling nostalgic.  I’ve been continuously trying to capture it throughout this review, however still don’t think I’ve done Even in Paradise justice.  It has this almost cerebral quality to it that just has to be experienced. I know what will be gained from it will differ from reader to reader though, so I do recommend to everybody that they give this one a shot.  If it’s not clear from the copious amount of quotes used in this review, the least you’ll gain is reading some truly enviable writing.

4 Stars
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Larissa was born and still is living in the land of ice, snow and maple syrup. She's 18 years old and really has no idea what to do with her life lately. Larissa's plans are constantly changing--though there’s one thing has remained constant throughout her seventeen years, and that’s reading. It takes her to another world and puts her into impossible situations and that’s why she loves it so much.

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30 Responses to Review: Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

  1. Lexa Cain says:

    It kinda amazes me someone would try to modernize The Great Gatsby. The author must be quite ambitious, but if the book is half as fascinating as your review, I’m in! 🙂
    Lexa Cain recently posted…IWSG: What No One Will Tell YouMy Profile

  2. I’m actually not a huge fan of Gatsby, but Even in Paradise sounds like I’d enjoy it, Larissa. Great review!
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #22 – InstinctMy Profile

  3. First off, I’m on a little ban right now and just as fate would have it both you and Mel consecutively review books that I’ve JUST BEEN EYEING, BUT HAVE PASSED UP. I can’t. Is this fate telling me that I should just give in and purchase??

    I adore The Great Gatsby and so when this book appeared on my radar, I just knew that sooner or later I’d have to get this read. And it seems as though someone out there is telling me sooner rather than later. I definitely want to see how Charlotte parallels Nick for myself. And the juxtaposition between her and the Buchanans sounds absolutely breathtaking. I want to see this flawed family in all their glory.

    A romance that knows of the perfect combination that is joy and pain? Oh god, I need to have this book in my life. This seems right up my alley. FANTASTIC REVIEW, LARISSA <33 x
    Jess @My Reading Dress recently posted…If Everything Is Conventional Then What Does It Take To Be Avant-Garde?My Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Oooooo [; So we’re being evil and making you reconsider your choices? Good. Hehe you really ought to give Even in Paradise a shot boo. It’s definitely fate telling you to buy, buy, buy c;

      Great Gatsby is wonderful! Yeah I found Charlotte to definitely be like Nick. And Julia to be like Gatsby mixed with Daisy omg I don’t even know. The juxtaposition was wonderfully done, it snuck up on you and then suddenly BOOM. Became so clear and wonderful. The Buchanan family themselves were my favorite part of the story.

      Thank you lovely <33

  4. Lily says:

    I’ve been dying to get my hands on this one for so long Larissa! You have no idea! That being said, I just hadn’t gotten around to it but now you’re review made me get all these feelings inside and i’m tempted to go out and get my copy tonight. I want it that bad LOL.
    I loved The Great Gatsby and while the idea of a YA retelling did make me a bit wary I had the lovely chance to interview the author for the blog and loved everything she had to say, so she calmed me nerves a bit.
    Lovely review Larissa! You’ve got me anxious for this book now.
    Lily recently posted…The Book of Ivy (The Book of Ivy#1):ReviewMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      DO ITTTTT [; Haha consider this some fun peer pressure for ya okay. It’s a really great read though, well worth the wait.

      Awwww! I really want to check your blog now and see if I can find the interview. The author must be so intelligent if she could write a story like this.

      Thank you Lily <33

  5. Wow. Honestly, from the blurb, I was expecting a shallow read (a senator’s daughter, falling for your best friend’s brother… sounds like something I wouldn’t like, yeah?)… Boy, was I wrong. I’m definitely keeping my eye out for this one, then. But I’ll be wary as well–my mind and my heart need to be prepared for this. Awesome review, Larissa!
    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings recently posted…Deadly Digest: NovemberMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Yeah, The Great Gatsby itself seems a bit shallow to some. It’s a facade though, to drive away those who don’t dig deeper. What seems vapid and insipid on the surface is actually so much more deep. Thank you Aimee <33

  6. I was not a big fan of the Great Gatsby, but your review has me wanting to read this one and I am not always the easiest to please when it comes to retellings, either. Lovely review.
    Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings recently posted…Review: My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories AnthologyMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Ooooo. Well take in mind that there’s a lot of elements in this one that was in The Great Gatsby. However maybe you would like the modernization. Thank you Heidi <33

  7. The quotes for this book are so so gorgeous! I love the cover for this too–it looks perfect for summer. I am going to have to get a copy of this one. Loved the review, Larissa!

    • Larissa says:

      RIGHT! I wanted to include the whole book in the review, just because all of the writing was so gorgeous. The cover is so pretty. Thank you Johanna <33

  8. Jasprit says:

    I’m glad that this book was able to give you something beyond your expectations Larissa. To be honest when I first got this book I thought that it would be a fun, fluffy read, but I’m glad to see that its a story with a lot more depth and gorgeous writing. I am certainly looking more forward to giving this one a go! Gorgeous review!
    Jasprit recently posted…Cover Reveal, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Frenchman by Lesley YoungMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      It truly was a remarkable surprise. It’s certainly more deep and hard hitting than the cover suggests. The writing is truly enviable, so beautiful.

      Thank you <33

  9. I really liked this one too. Sure, not much happens and it’s not really a romance, but it was a very good character driven story. I too, fell in love with the Buchanans 🙂
    Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday (132)!My Profile

  10. I’m glad you liked this — I didn’t realize it was actually a retelling of Brideshead Revisited, down to the names of the characters, and I have no familiarity with that book or movie. I felt like I’d read this poor character with a rich friend story many times before. But I did like the writing, so I will be happy to try future books by this author.
    Great review!
    Jen @ YA Romantics
    Jen @ YA Romantics recently posted…Just Finished Reading: Princess of Thorns by Stacey JayMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Oooooo I’ve never heard of Brideshead Revisited, only was aware of the Gatsby connections. The writing was one of the best parts of this story.

      Thank you <33

  11. Oh my, this sounds fabulous. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite ‘required reading’ books. I’ll definitely be looking for this book!
    Gabs @ My Full bookshelf recently posted…Review: Coral and Bone by Tiffany DuaneMy Profile

  12. Larissa says:

    It was definitely great [; Yeah, for a required reading book The Great Gatsby was truly a gem

  13. YES! Yes, yes, yes! *fist pump* I’m so glad to hear that this is a fantastic modernisation and that this novel can stand on it’s own. I’m really looking forward to reading this one, so I’m super glad you enjoyed it, Larissa! I’m glad to hear that the romance was subtle – It’s not like we readers need a full-blown romance in every book we read. Thanks for a wonderful review. 🙂
    Ebony @ Daring Damsels recently posted…#RiteofRejection Blog Tour: Review + GiveawayMy Profile

  14. Melliane says:

    It’s always a bit difficult when you keep comparing two books I think. I happens to me sometimes as well. But in the end it sounds really well done even if a little different from the Great Gatsby. Thanks for the review!
    Melliane recently posted…Rocked by the Billionaire by Mandy BaxterMy Profile

  15. Glass says:

    I didn’t think that this would be such a serious read in the end. Great review!
    Glass recently posted…Maybe Not (Maybe Someday, #1.5) by Colleen HooverMy Profile

  16. Danielle says:

    Wow, such a beautiful review! I would totally buy this book because OMG *that* cover is gorgeous lol but it sounds really interesting. I adore The Great Gatsby so a book that re-imagines that in modern times yet still stands on its own merit sounds excellent. Definitely going to check this one out!
    Danielle recently posted…Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis | ReviewMy Profile

  17. I don’t know about a retelling of a book like the Great Gatsby, because the setting has such an impact. (I say that like I’ve read it) The subtle romance sounds good as do the characters. I like books that keep me reading to discover the past histories.
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Indie Book Review: Elemental Rancor by Charles LominecMy Profile

  18. This sounds alluring, based from the early reviews I’ve read, I did not want to pick this one up. Modern Classics are not up to date. They seem to push me away once I finish a chapter, but I would love to try this one out. I love your review, Larissa! <3
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  19. Thanks for the awesome review Larissa, this is one of the top books on my TBR at the moment and I love that it is an emotional read. I’m definitely going to go and buy myself a copy of it now!
    Eugenia @ Genie In A Book recently posted…Genie’s Weekly News (12)My Profile

  20. Oh my gosh Larissa, I felt the same exact way about everything!! I loved the romance, I was so caught up in the story and the family as well, I thought Charlotte was a bit flat compared to the Buchanans. I loved the writing and everything about it. I too laughed and cried and had a horrible book hangover afterwards. I thought this was an emotional read and a fantastic debut. Lovely review <33
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