Paradise by Jill S. Alexander
Publication Date: July 5, 2011
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: country music, Texas, pressure from parents, siblings, romance
Format read: Borrowed from library.
Summary: The only think Paisley has ever wanted to do was be a drummer. Right now, she’s playing in a country band with friends and they hope to make waves at Texapalooza music fest. Luckily, they are able to find a new lead singer in time — the gorgeous and talented Paradise, but how long can she keep her dreams a secret from her parents?
I’m pretty much convinced that in some past life I was in love with a cowboy.
Because I find them so attractive. (Like, I may drool a little bit.) And I’m from New Jersey! There are no cowboys in Jersey, friends. (In case, you didn’t know.) And the only one I know if in New York is the Naked Cowboy and he just does not do it for me. But oh gosh, when they can sing. I’m a goner.
Paradise (real name: Gabriela) embodies the spirit of country music and every single reason why cowboys are such a prize.
He’s tough, he’s teasing, and this one plays a mean accordion. Yep, you heard me right. When Paradise shows up to try out for the band, the other members are not so sure it’s going to work out. But he has the voice and he brings a unique edge, and Paisley can’t keep her eyes off of him.
For Paisley, being into something (someone?) else is a surprise because her life is drumming. A passion she has to keep a secret from her parents because they would never approve of her acting so un-ladylike or hanging out with losers like Michael Waylon. Actually, it’s only Paisley’s mom that feels that way. Her dad is pretty laidback, but pretty much lets his wife call the shots. Not in an absent way either… he tries to maintain the peace and is probably a lot more intuitive than everyone gives him credit for.
Paisley’s mom is pretty controlling of her and her sister, Lacey. Both girls were given purity rings at a young age, and Lacey is being forced to try out for various song choirs even though all she wants to do is open a beauty salon. This parental pressure, this close-mindedness does come from a genuine place but it makes it tough for both girls to embrace who they really are. They are forced to lie and sneak around to be happy, and that’s starting to get very tough to continue.
So while Paisley’s attraction to Paradise does heat up many passages in the book, the biggest conflict in Paradise is these two sisters finding the strength to stand up for what they want without hurting anyone in the process. Paradise doesn’t only offer his warm embrace, but is a huge influence on Paisley as he encourages her to be “wide open” with her life and work hardest on what’s best for her.
Interlaced through the story are lyrics from Cal, a shy guitarist, and I liked this breakup between chapters because we got to learn about his character and also get an outsider’s view on some of the events that occur throughout the story. Lacey and Paisley also have a feisty and fresh relationship for sisters, and I enjoyed the scenes shared between the two.
But warning, warning! There is a curveball of an ending, like oh-gee did that really just happen? I don’t recall ever being that blindsided in a book, and after thinking about it pretty obsessively, I’m still unsure of the author’s choice. Had it been me, I would have ended things a little differently.
I wish I could tell you more, but instead, I’m going to urge you to pick this one up. It’s not every day that a young adult book features a book with such Southern roots (with some Latin flair)… it’s a fresh and different and, even though, the fears and conclusions Paisley must come to within her family unit and for herself are nothing ground-breaking, Alexander makes them approachable and as accurate as possible.
Also special bonus music time. Jason Aldean’s “Wide Open” is the perfect anthem for this story.