REVIEW: Paradise City by CJ Duggan

Published: 28th April 2015

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 363

Format: paperback (thanks to the publisher)

RRP: $17.95

4/5 stars

There’s trouble waiting in Paradise

Quiet country-girl Lexie Atkinson is about to get an education she’ll never forget. Sent from her family’s remote rural property to live in the glittering beachside Paradise City for her final school year, she is plunged into a place where looks can kill and vicious rumours can make or break you. Lexie just wants to fly under the radar … until she meets Luke Ballantine.

Impulsive and charming, one thing is clear: Luke is sexier than any guy she has ever known.

Suddenly good girl Lexie is breaking all the rules –getting detention, sneaking out to late-night parties, hanging out with boys – and then rumours start swirling … about her! Everything changes fast and Lexie will soon find out if Luke Ballantine is going to be good for her . . . or very, very bad?


Don’t be fooled by the pretty pink cover, Paradise City by CJ Duggan packs quite the punch – of the good variety of course.

I was lucky enough to receive this book through the publisher during an internship interview. Having nothing to read with me, and a two and half hour train trip home, I started the book almost immediately and finished it before I got home. It was just that good. What’s more the characters stayed with me for days.

Simply put, Paradise City by CJ Duggan is an amazing New Adult narrative. It’s the story about a girl named Lexie Atkinson and her sea change when she gives up ‘boring’ old country life for senior schooling (yr 11 & 12) in the big smoke – or more adequately Paradise City, a surfing town on the Cold Coast, Australia. Lexie is book smart and thinks she knows exactly what she’s in for, rooming with her ‘BFF’ cousin Amanda, who she hasn’t seen in years, she knows she’s in for a great year, and can’t wait to leave her small town roots behind. But upon arriving in Paradise she realises pretty damn quickly that life isn’t all its dreamed to be, her cousin doesn’t want a thing to do with her and she doesn’t fit in at school. But things aren’t all bad, there is after all a sexy bad boy surfer named Like Ballantine who suddenly has Lexie’s entire attention.

What I think I loved most about this book was the way in which CJ Duggan draws you into Lexie’s world so quickly and so thoroughly through the scenery, atmosphere, and even the language of both country life and it’s contrasts to city life. It’s almost like the book has this sleepily awakening with Lexie as she journeys to the city, where her excitement is only overshadowed by the overwhelming nature and never ending noise of suburban and city dwelling. But it’s with that quick realisation that Paradise City and a normal High School isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be that is endearing, because at the end of the day Lexie still loves school and the new experiences it brings with it. Human interaction no matter how negative is always a plus in her books where she’s used to a radio ‘on-air’/home schooling environments. What’s more the book is written in such a way, that much like the writing, the tension whether that be caused by family, friends, or chemistry related to a certain surfer, has this natural flow that is weaved through the whole book giving it this seamless ebb and flow of a coastal town life with its highs and lows.

Another shinning feature is the larger than life array of mismatched characters assembled in Paradise City. There’s Lexie Atkinson, a feisty independent teen who is trying everything and anything she can think of to shred her ‘old’ image and reputation of a ‘good, upstanding country girl’. And Luke Balletine, the king of the surfing crowd, all round bad boy with a secret heart. Amanda, Lexie’s cousin, is one of the cool girls obsessed with boys and the ideals of being a typical teenager (sneaking out, drinking etc) and a bit of the stereotypical mean girl; and Boon, Luke’s right hand man and potentially a bigger gossip then the entire female population at school. Boon’s sister is book smart and cautious, and yet a wild child on the inside full of pranks and endless hours of entertainment. Lexie’s aunt is much like her daughter in terms of how she is always careful of what persona she is giving out to the public through her OCD cleanliness routine and perfectionist lifestyle, where as her husband couldn’t be more different and aloof, completely disengaged by everything that surrounds him, except for when it comes to his young charge (Lexie) and a certain teenage boy. All of these larger than life characters share traits and personalities of people that just about every single reader would have encountered at least once through their high school lives. What should stand as random mismatched array of personalities is transformed through the magic of Duggan’s words and narrative to become almost like a second family to the reader. A home away from home, where life is a little bit more exciting then it is perhaps in reality, and yet not so far enough removed that we don’t believe it or feel it ourselves.

Overall it was refreshing to see teenagers acting like every day mundane teenagers in this narrative, a trait I think many of the books lack these days in both the YA and NA genres. What’s more, the adults in the story – whether they be Lexie’s parents, her Aunt and Uncle, or Dean Saville (Luke’s older brother) – are active participants rather than just shadows in the background or missing altogether. At no point in this story did I feel like a character (teen or adult) was on the page simply there to fulfil a plot point, rather they were all integral parts of the story.

In fact there was only one small problem I had with the book as a whole and that related to the story’s time lime. It seemed like it was Lexie’s first week at school for the majority of the book, and then suddenly in true wham-bam-thank-you-mam style, it was the end of the school year and Lexie was leaving Paradise City for the holidays. While I understand this might be my own reading error, it just seemed a trifle bit confusing and out of place how quick that transition was. That said, the book reads extremely well and Lexie did do a lot in her first week or so of school and suburban living.

I’m not so patiently waiting for book book two – which unfortunately I just found out via the authors facebook page has been delayed by two months is now due out in November 2015! In the meantime though the author and publisher have revamped the covers to reflect the more sexy, grown up appeal of this NA narrative and I actually love what they’ve done with them.

Please note that there is a small amount of adult/sexual content in this book and it’s recommend for mature audiences – i.e. the older spectre of YA readers (15 and above). That said this book is not erotic as I’ve heard and seen some people list it as, so please don’t be dissuaded by the concept.


To learn more about this author visit the following sites:

Author Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Hachette Australia |

To purchase a copy of Paradise City visit the following online retailers:

Booktopia | Amazon AU | Amazon US | iBooks AU | Angus &Robertson | Worderly | Book Depository |




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