30 July 2010

Review: Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Title: Leaving Paradise
Author: Simone Elkeles
Series: Leaving Paradise #1
Genre: YA
Release Date: April 1, 2007
Publisher: Flux
Edition: Paperback
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 pitying 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 tortuous journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other.

After reading and loving Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction, both by Simone Elkeles, I knew I had to read Leaving Paradise.

Maggie and Caleb represent both sides of the same coin. He was driving the car that injured Maggie for which he went to juvenile jail and she got injured for which she lost all she worked so hard to gain. He's the bad guy and she's the victim.
When Caleb finally gets out of jail and comes back to Paradise, Maggie and him had to face their fears and find out who they really are.

Caleb comes back to a destroyed family. Nothing is as it was before the accident and he has to adapt quickly to the changes. I liked how he finally sees the true faces of everyone around him, even though it seemed like we really didn't know his friends at all. There has to be more about them than a selfish cheerleader, an insensitive group of guys and some bullies. Also, we don't really get to know his family and why they are the way they are, and I didn't really like that Caleb didn't care enough to face them and stop playing their charade.

Maggie retreated to her shell after the accident and didn't come out until she started interacting with Caleb. I loved seeing her evolve from being scared to facing her problems. I don't understand how she lost all her friends, I don't think teenagers are that cruel. We are also presented with the issue of her dad, but that's never resolved and I felt it wasn't necessary. Her mom is very conflicted, she doesn't know if she should cuddle her daughter or force her out of her cocoon, and that's the main thing that made her seem realistic.

The other important character in this book was Mrs. Reynolds. It's because of her that Caleb and Maggie get together and really talk, she's also the one that starts giving Maggie her confidence back and she also is one of the few people who doesn't judge Caleb for his past. I think that without her probably Caleb and Maggie would have never gotten together.

I loved the story of both the main characters and the time flew while I read this novel. The only problem I had was the ending. I really wasn't expecting that, but at least there's a sequel later this year.

Memorable Lines:

Caleb stands and paces the attic again. "Coming home has sucked. But leaving Paradise would be a copout."

"To me," I tell him "leaving Paradise means freedom. I feel locked up just living in this town where everybody reminds me what a loser I am now."

Calec crouches down, his face right in from of mine.
"You are not a loser. Hell, Maggie, you always knew what you wanted and went for it."

I tell him the honest truth. "Not anymore. When you hit me, a part of me died."

Next Book:
Return to Paradise - Leaving Paradise #2 - September 1st 2010