Even in Paradise
by Philpot, Chelsey

Believing she knows everything about a new celebrity student at her school, Charlotte unexpectedly befriends the girl and is introduced to a world of parties and privilege before falling for the secretly grieving girl's older brother. A first novel. Simultaneous eBook. 40,000 first printing.

Like Joyce Carol Oates' Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You (2012) and Jennifer Mathieu's The Truth about Alice (2014), Philpot's promising debut centers almost obsessively around a character who is not our protagonist. Our narrator, Charlotte, is a junior at St. Anne's boarding school when she meets Julia Buchanan. (That last name, as we will see, is a thing of importance.) Julia is an iconoclast of the French-speaking, gin-swigging, glamorously doomed variety, and soon she invites Charlotte-now nicknamed Charlie-to Arcadia, the Nantucket Island home base of the rich, politically connected Buchanan clan. The Buchanans, including love-interest Sebastian, take Charlotte under their collective wing, partly because she acts as a tonic to Julia, whose depressive mood swings have lightened for the first time since the car-crash death of her older sister. There is nothing in this Gatsbyesque world we haven't seen before, but Philpot knows that and happily hands over the tragic goods: disaffected, charming, well-drawn characters; gauzy tuxedo-and-gown parties; and a wistful, melancholy tone that makes it all seem achingly fleeting. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

This readable boarding school story feels quite familiar. Charlotte is a relative nonentity at her exclusive New England boarding school, with a small circle of friends and an average existence. That all changes when a drunk Julia Buchanan throws up underneath her dorm window and Charlotte helps her. Part of a blatantly Kennedy-esque family, Julia is charming and witty, although the French phrases she flings about may irritate readers as much as they seem to exasperate Charlotte. But there is also a dark neediness to Julia, one that troubles Charlotte even as she becomes part of Julia's world and family. Charlotte becomes Charlie, finding herself frequently invited to the Buchanan compound on Nantucket, given expensive gifts and even falling for Julia's older brother, Sebastian. But the Buchanans are all haunted by the death of the family's oldest daughter, Augustine. And when Charlotte discovers the truth about Augustine's death and Julia's involvement in it—a discove ry that feels calculated and without surprise instead of the other way around—it ends her time in paradise. Combining elements of The Great Gatsby and Looking for Alaska (both conspicuously cited in the publicity), the novel doesn't offer much that's original. Yet Philpot constructs some interesting minor characters and has a fluid, easy style, one that would shine through with a story more her own. Here's hoping Philpot's sophomore outing sees this promise realized. (Mystery. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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