Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Paradise Girl by Phill Featherstone - Book Review, Guest Post, Extract & Giveaway

As part of Brook Cottage Tours Blog Blitz Day I am delighted to be bringing you my review of Paradise Girl, together with an Extract, a Guest Post and a fabulous Giveaway!

Genre:  Nominally YA/NA, General Fiction
Publication Date:  27 January 2017
Publisher:  Matador

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.

Paradise Girl is one of those stories that stays with you for quite a while afterwards. I keep thinking about it even now and it's been several days since I finished reading it.
The voice of Kerryl comes through very strongly in the diaries she has written - one before the Infection came and one after, which she is writing now as she is the only one left all alone in her family's farm.
Her twin brother has run away, she doesn't know if he's dead or alive, she finds some clues on his computer as to why he has gone and she misses him terribly.
I really felt as if I knew Kerryl and felt so sorry for her, she must have been so scared on her own. I kept wondering how I would cope in that situation, probably not as well as she did! Her mind imagined noises and seeing people, but was it her imagination or was there someone there? That kept me reading on and on till I found out. Very skilful writing to keep me guessing!
I thought this was an amazing and fascinating read, it really captured my imagination from the start and I would recommend it if you're looking for something out of the ordinary.

Why YA?

A question I’m sometimes asked is why I write fiction for young adults. I suppose a good answer would be, why not?’ However, it’s a fair enough query. After all, I’m no spring chicken and anyone who looks at my photo on my Facebook or Twitter pages will see straight away that my own YA days are a long way behind me!

One answer is that I don’t always write in the YA genre. My latest novel - The God Jar - is a blend of historical and literary fiction, and unlikely to appeal to many teens. However, the one I’m working on now - The Poinsoner’s Garden - will probably be another YA.

I suppose one reason for this is that I like teenagers. I don’t teach now, but I used to teach English to teens, and one of the parts I enjoyed most was coming into contact with their ideas. To listen to them talking about their lives, their hopes and ambitions, their ideas and their reading was a huge privilege. There’s something inspiring about young people who come to things fresh with their ideals still intact and their lives before them. Sadly, of course, not all young people are so lucky, but many are, and I love watching how they grapple with the world and try to make sense of the million things that are happening to them and around them. And sometimes I wonder how on earth they can forgive us for the messes we make.

The question that started this ramble - why do I write in the YA genre - assumes it’s a deliberate choice I make. It’s not. There are authors who write with a particular genre in mind. Pick up book by PD James, John Grisham, Stephen King, and you pretty much know what you’re getting. For some authors the association with a genre becomes so fixed that if they want to escape it they have to take drastic action. When JK Rowling wanted to write thrillers she took the completely new name of Robert Galbraith (very brave, when you think of what clout her real name has). So there are some who establish a style and a clientele and write for it, and there are others who, when they begin a novel, have no idea of the genre they’re aiming for. I’m one of those. That’s why I said above that The Poisoner’s Garden will probably be YA. I write what I write because characters appeal to me and I want to tell their stories, and the genre will depend on who those characters are. Kerryl Shaw is seventeen, so her story - Paradise Girl - is likely to appeal to readers who are in or can identify with that age group. Much of The God Jar - concerns the Elizabethan magician John Dee, so that’s less likely to appeal to teens and more likely to interest older readers. I think the best answer I can give when people ask me who I’m writing is, ‘People like me.’

Finally, I’d like to tackle a couple of myths. The first one is to do with how some people think of the YA genre. I’ve often heard books described as ‘only’ YA, the implication being that writing for that market is somehow easier. It isn’t! I once had a conversation with a distinguished author of books for both adults and young adults, who insisted that the latter audience was by far the hardest to write for. Just because the protagonists are not fully mature doesn’t mean that what they do and feel and what happens to them isn’t worth the attention of the ‘literary’ reader. I can remember reading The Fault in Our Stars and a friend being astounded. ‘But that’s a kids’ book!’ he said. Good writing is good writing, and work by John Green, Suzanne Collins, Philip Pullman, Patrick Ness, Neil Gaimon and other greats appeals across age groups partly because it’s extremely well written, and also because it deals with matters that are of interest and concern to us all, regardless of age. Making the reader interested in and care for their characters is the mark of a good writer, regardless of what genre they’re writing in. One of the loveliest reviews I’ve had for Paradise Girl was from an experienced and respected book blogger, the wonderful Anne Williams. She wrote, ‘Don’t be put off by the “young adult” tag – although the clear voice is of a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, there’s absolutely no simplification or dumbing down here. This is a book full of fine writing that would appeal to any adult, even those of advanced years like me.’ I walked around for several days on a cloud after reading that, and t still cheers me when I get a less than enthusiastic review.


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!


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.
Paradise Girl recently won a CHILL WITH A BOOK AWARD!
Twitter: @PhillFeathers


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