The Great Gatsby meets Looking for Alaska in this stunning debut novel.
When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about her. Most people do . . . or think they do. Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she dives headfirst 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 Julia’s self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes, she is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden . . . until now.
With inspiration drawn from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Chelsey Philpot’s moving debut novel perfectly captures the intensity, the thrill, and the heartbreak of our too-brief friendships and loves.
This book really caught me off guard. It’s deep and touching and honest and maps out the challege of discovering who you are in an opulent world.
This is one of those books that I wouldn’t have picked up if I wasn’t doing the 365 Days of YA Challenge. It’s a Contemporary, not my usual genre. But the reference to The Great Gatsby definitely sparked my interest. As soon as I got into this by a couple chapters it was hard for me to put down. The characters are really interesting and different, maybe a little eccentric, but certainly have aspects of people we have all known. Immediately I related to the main character “Charlie” with her “speaks little observes much” attitude and morbid interest in Julia, who clearly is messed up.
While this story was focused on Julia and Charlie’s relationship, I think it was more of Charlie learning about herself and getting to experience the mythical American royalty. Julia is interesting, with her eccentricies and her darkness, and both of those bring out different sides of Charlie. Though I can see how some people would see Charlie as flat and the story a bit boring as there isn’t really a main plot element. I however, loved it, being able to experience the optimistic and life changing years that are those last years of high school and to see how so many different options are available to everyone, but sometimes feel out of reach.
I can definitely see how this has been compared to The Great Gatsby. The Buchanan’s though are Gatsby, clinging to this opptomistic facade but constantly being dragged back down by reality. A happy, unburdened life free of their eldest daughters haunting is their green light, and not matter what they can’t reach it. There are so many quotable lines, Philpot is lyrical but realistic and I can’t wait to see what else she comes out with.
I appreciate how the relationship between Sebastian and Charlie didn’t overshadow that of Julia and Charlie. I certainly thought it was needed though, Charlie needed someone she could rely on since so many people relied on her or made her responsible for Julia. I thought it was a healthy relationship as well and they were certainly cute together. I also love the hopeful note the book leaves on, one of fresh starts a and new possibilities. Charlie, Sebastian, and Julia have all grown in different ways. And for Charlie and Sebastian, maybe even enough to be part of something together again.