Book Review: Leaving Paradise

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Released: April 1, 2007
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 303
Rating: 4 stars
Nothing has been the same since Caleb Becker left a party drunk, got behind the wheel, and hit Maggie Armstrong. Even after months of painful physical therapy, Maggie walks with a limp. Her social life is nil and a scholarship to study abroad-her chance to escape everyone and their pity stares-has been canceled.

After a year in juvenile jail, Caleb's free . . . if freedom means endless nagging from a transition coach and the prying eyes of the entire town. Coming home should feel good, but his family and ex-girlfriend seem like strangers. Caleb and Maggie are outsiders, pigeon-holed as "criminal" and "freak." Then the truth emerges about what really happened the night of the accident and, once again, everything changes. It's a bleak and tortured journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other.

Leaving Paradise is a tragic, yet beautiful, love story. Day to day, Maggie and Caleb constantly struggle with poor self image and the dirty remarks made by their peers, while deep down try to find a way to accept the horrible past and move on.

Being locked up for a year changed Caleb, and when he goes home, he realizes that it also changed his family. His mother his like a robot (she’s there physically, but not mentally), his father can’t stand up for himself, and his twin sister, formally Maggie’s best friend, has turned Goth – always dressing in black and never leaving her room. But not only has his immediate family changed, his best friend started dating the girlfriend he left behind, and everyone at school and in town, thinks he’s a dangerous criminal.

Things are not any easier for Maggie. Because of the damage done to her leg by the accident, she has been out of school for a year. She can’t play tennis, she has lost all of her friends, and is still trying to deal with the divorce of her parents. But when Caleb comes back to school, Maggie gains an anger problem because she feels Caleb is sliding back into his normal routine and giving no attention to what he did to her.

I love the way Elkeles created this story – a story that could very well happen in real life. But there is so much more to it than just a love story and Elkeles did a great job weaving it all together. One of the great things about this book, is the alternating 1st person POV. Each chapter switches between Maggie and Caleb and I love being able to see how each of them is thinking and feeling.

Although the ending is a little upsetting, I understand that some of the best stories have to be tragedies. That is just the way the world works; accidents happen, and love (no matter how strong and pure) can be lost, but in the end, life does go on. Thankfully, there will be a sequel coming the summer of 2010, so I’m not too worried about the ending of Leaving Paradise…yet. I can’t wait to see what will become of Maggie and Caleb.



Faye( Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm) said...

OHHHH!!! Simone is my FAVORITE author! I love this book. I liked the ending but i didn't like it. I'm so happy 2 find out that there's a sequel!!I can't get over the ending.....

Just Your Typical Book Blog said...

Nice review. This one isn't one of my favorites of Simone's, but I'm still pretty excited to see what's going to happen in the sequel.

Jessica said...

This sounds like such a good book. I've been thinking of picking it up and now I'm convinced.
Great review, by the way!

Tales of Whimsy said...

Wow sounds really deep. Great review.

Sab H. said...

I have Perfect Chemistry on my desk waiting since I dont remember when.. But I'm adding this to my TBR too anyway! Great Review!

Leslie said...

nice review! i loved perfect chemistry! so i'm trying to go out and find this novel! gah i went to the book store yesterday and they didnt have it! so yeah... lol but once i do i'll bet it'll be good! glad it's going to be a sequel!

Jax said...

So glad to see that someone read this book and loved it as much as I did.... I can not wait for the sequel to be released. If you hear anything more about it before I do keep me posted...

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