Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot is a repetitive and clichéd 368 page novel about Charlotte and Julia’s friendship (“contra mundum” aka “together against the world”!) with a sprinkle of romance on Charlotte and Sebastian’s side.
I believe that the greatest downfall of what could’ve been a beautiful book here, is the lack of balance between the main elements of the plot (which already doesn’t have much to it in the first place). That is, as aforementioned, Charlotte and Julia’s friendship, and Charlotte and Sebastian’s romance. Although I really like reading about how Charlotte and Julia became CharlotteandJulia and that romance isn’t the forefront of this book, the incredible lack of focus on Sebastian and Charlotte’s relationship just makes it feel like it’s there as a filler. Honestly, I feel that even without the romance, I’ll still get the feelings and thoughts I did when I read this book. There isn’t much point to it, except to maybe make Charlotte more relatable because of course a teenager must have crushes and boyfriends and all that!
Another downfall to this book is the fact that the characters are all flat. This is another huge disappointment for me since I can relate to and understand most of the characters (even the side ones) because I’ve been in a similar situation. I couldn’t really feel for them—not for Charlotte the Smart Idiot who got sucked into the Buchanan’s world, not for Traumatised Julia who’s consumed by guilt, and especially not for Clumsy Sebastian because he isn’t more than just a love interest and a brother of Julia’s. They don’t undergo a transformation of character. They don’t become complex. It matters not that I actually genuinely like them because I don’t actually like them as characters/possible humans. I simply like the idea of them.
(On a side note: my Marvel fangirl side emerged when I saw “Sebastian” and “Buchanan”. I couldn’t imagine Sebastian Buchanan looking any other way except for the Sebastian Stan/Bucky Barnes way after that.)
Also, I’m conflicted about this point since I’m multilingual and I do switch in between languages when talking to others who understand those languages, but goodness, Julia’s constant usage of French got annoying after a few chapters. Especially when she uses it with Charlotte who doesn’t understand it. On one hand, it can be said that Julia wants to say things to Charlotte without the latter understanding it since she can, and maybe she just wants to add more allure to protect herself by having others enraptured in said allure. On the other hand, I just want to bloody know what the hell all that French means. There aren’t even translations included as footnotes or anything like that, ugh. Seriously, a handful of foreign words and a few phrases are fine but more than that just disrupts the reading experience. I’m barely able to gauge what Julia’s talking about most of the time and that really frustrates me because I don’t remove myself from the characters’ world just because I need to spend more than five minutes looking up multiple phrases on the internet.
Moreover, the constant and blatant foreshadowing at the end of some of the chapters shouldn’t be there at all. Within a novel, it’s fine to foreshadow in the prologue but at the other chapters? No. There is a lot of blatant foreshadowing in classics and light novels and they work fine there because they somehow fit into the feel of those genres, but in a book like Even in Paradise? Just no. I’m so angry at them because they decreased my anticipation so much that I knew the ending fifteen chapters in. Normally, I would’ve been able to trick my mind into thinking that I haven’t read a book with similar plots and characters before but everything went out the window at the end of the fifteenth chapter.
Other than that, the conflicts aren’t significant and the tension isn’t there. Basically everything in this book feels distant and unrealistic which isn’t good at all since contemporary stories should be you know, as relatable and realistic as possible. I had rather high hopes since I love The Great Gatsby and I’m a sucker for the ‘Poor Little Rich Boy/Girl’ trope but this book is just…no.