Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Paradise Girl by Phill Featherstone
Release Date: 27th January 2017
Publisher: Matador
Genres:  YA/NA, / General Fiction

Kerryl Shaw has always kept a diary, but this one is different because she knows she is going to die.
A highly infectious and incurable virus spreads worldwide. Seventeen-year-old Kerryl lives with her family on a remote farm. They think they will be safe, but the danger advances. One day a stranger arrives, and it soon becomes apparent that he has brought the plague to their door.
Kerryl is sure it’s only a matter of time before she catches the infection and dies, and decides to record what she thinks will be her final days. She realises that her diary will never be read, so she imagines a reader and calls him Adam. Loneliness and isolation affect the balance of her mind. Little by little Adam comes alive to her, and she sets off across the moor to meet him.

       Introductions are boring, but unless I take time to explain things it will be confusing for you. Me first. Not very polite, I know, but it’s probably the best place to start.
       My name is Kerryl – or that’s what my family and friends call me. My proper name is Cheryl. Cheryl Alison Shaw. They call me the Paradise Girl. Don’t get excited – it sounds sexy but it’s not. I’m seventeen years old and still a virgin. I’m not a nun, I’ve been out with loads of boys – Tim, Mark (two of them), Nathan, Jake, Tristram, Steve – but I wasn’t that keen on any of them and they didn’t last. The exception was Mark II. He was older than me, fearsomely good looking and he had a nice car. I thought he was really hot. When I wasn’t with him I was thinking about him. But it seems he wasn’t as keen as me, and one day my best friend, Josie, told me that he was going out with Monica Woodbridge and saying I was a frigid cow. It seems everybody knew I’d been dumped and I was the last to find out.
The worst thing was the shock. I thought Monica Woodbridge was my friend. As well as that, all the girls in our group had been going out with the same boys for a long time, but I seemed to keep a boyfriend for only a few weeks. Was there something wrong with me? To be honest, I’m not a great beauty. I don’t mean I’m a train wreck or anything. I’m not bad looking, but I’m not like Charlene Brooker or Suzy Simmonds. They’re electric, both of them. Charlene could be a model, and Suzy’s always surrounded by a gang of drooling boys.
They’re gone now: Charlene, Suzy, Josie, Monica, all of them.
       Sorry for the break there. I had to stop to have a little weep. I’ll try not to do too much of that. I suppose I can console myself with one thing: with everyone else dead, I must be the most beautiful girl in the world!



I'm so thrilled to be sharing my review again for this amazing book. I can't emphasize enough just how brilliant this book is. 17 year old Kerryl doesn't imagine for one moment that the deadly virus which seems to be killing everyone will affect her and her family in their farm, high above the town. Surely they will be protected from the outside world by their remote location. However, when Kerryl finds herself alone, the only member of her family left on the farm, she realises that she faces a daily challenge. The challenge of survival. Kerryl decides to tell her story through two diaries. One diary charts the run up to the virus and the other tells Kerryl's story as she struggles to live on her own, terrified by every shadow she imagines she sees.

I found this book to be so addictive. Phill Featherstone has created a wonderfully complex character in Kerryl. I imagine writing anything written from the perspective of a teenage girl is difficult enough but the author has managed to pull it off extremely well. Kerryl's voice adds a touch of almost childhood innocence to a situation that is so horrific and terrifying that its difficult to imagine. And despite all that is happening Kerryl's most pressing issue is her weight. And so, despite being in the fortunate position of having more food than she knows what to do with, she decides to go on a diet. However, I felt this was about more than an image issue for Kerryl but more of a coping mechanism for her. Did she really want to live? Alone. Forever.

Through Kerryl's eyes Phill Featherstone has painted a picture of abject loneliness. While, like most teenagers, Kerryl had been seeking her own kind of paradise............the paradise of not having anyone to tell her what to do and when to do it, it turns out that paradise isn't all its cracked up to be. Kerryl creates an imaginary character called Adam and this is the person she directs her writing to in the diaries.  The writing was extremely atmospheric and as it progresses, the tension builds to the point where the reader themselves becomes unsure whether what Kerryl is experiencing is real or imagined. Is she slowly losing her mind or there are darker forces at work? 

A brilliant piece of writing that I thoroughly enjoyed. Frightening, suspenseful and profoundly sad in places. Though don't read it just before you go to bed or you'll end up dreaming about Kerryl like I did! This book is described as a Young Adult book. However, I think the subject matter and Kerryl's plight will appeal to those of the more mature reader too. A definite recommended read from me.



Phill Featherstone was born and brought up in the north of England. He trained as a teacher and taught English in comprehensive schools. In the late 1990s he and his wife, Sally, founded a publishing company specialising in education books for the early years. In 2008 the business was acquired by Bloomsbury, after which they moved to Yorkshire. He now spends his time writing, travelling, on the arts and on conservation work. Phill has degrees from Cambridge and Leicester Universities, and is a member of the Society of Authors. Paradise Girl is his third novel, although the first to be published.
Twitter: @PhillFeathers
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