Lexie’s used to (and bored with) home-schooling and life in a small town, so she’s thrilled when she has the opportunity to stay with her aunt and uncle in the city of Paradise for the next school year. Eager to spread her wings and experience life to its fullest, she’s ill-prepared for her obnoxious cousin, sneaking out at night, and delinquent surfer boys. In Paradise City, C.J. Duggan once again perfectly captures that idealistic, awkward, drama-filled, and sometimes disappointing existence that is the life of a teenage girl.
Judging Covers: I absolutely love this cover. It perfectly embodies that recaptured youth that C.J. Duggan’s books create, and I couldn’t have picked a better design. Unfortunately, this is no longer the cover you’ll get with the book, as someone had the not-so-bright idea to redesign it so that it now looks like 99% of the other books out there. Instead of portraying the light, youthful feel that Duggan’s series evokes, the new covers feature that generic, shirtless guy that appears all over book retailer sites, ensuring these books blend in with the crowd instead of standing out like they should.
The Verdict: With as much as I loved the unfortunately unfinished Summer series, there was no doubt I’d be reading this one. Truth is I read it as soon as it was released; it just took me forever to get around to reviewing it.
Amanda, the cousin that Lexie was once close to, has practically become a different person since she moved away years ago, and it’s clear that Amanda not only doesn’t want anything to do with her, but actually wants her gone. Amanda’s tougher than that, though, and resolves not to let Amanda’s attitude get in the way of this new opportunity she has.
At school, things are a bit different, and it seems that Lexie has attracted the attention of local bad boy surfer Luke Ballantine. But he’s not all his reputation would have her think he is, and they form a bit of a friendship that soon blooms into deeper feelings. True to their ages, though, these two let all kinds of teenage drama, from simple miscommunication to malicious rumors, get in the way of their relationship, and while it was certainly frustrating, it was also very realistic. Watching Lexie navigate her new life in the city, her new high school experience, and her relationship with Ballantine was like a trip back to a simpler time in all our lives, and I was turning the pages as quickly as I could through every second of it.
My only real problem with the book was the ending. Whereas the Summer series concluded each story fully at the end of each book and still left me wanting more, Paradise City ends on an awful cliffhanger that left me wondering why I’d bothered reading it in the first place. Duggan’s already established herself as a phenomenal writer, so leaving readers hanging in an effort to get us to snatch up the next book upon release seems like a very unnecessary step backwards. Perhaps that wasn’t really her impetus for the disappointing ending, but it had the same effect on me. I’m sure I’ll be continuing with the next book, but only after I check to make sure I’ll get an actual ending in it.