Book Review: Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1) by Simone Elkeles

Title: Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1)
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Flux
Publishing Date: January 2008
Length: 312 pages
Genre: YA, contemporary romance
Source: Bought

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.

Summary by Goodreads

LEAVING PARADISE offers an interesting story. There’s an accident which changes everything between two people. The hard and really interesting part about that: Maggie, the victim, knows Caleb, the person who caused the accident, and that starts a major conflict.

The way from hating someone for ruining their life to forgiving and loving that someone is really short. It’s the relationship between victim and offender that fascinates me, the delicate balance between an ocean of feelings for the person you once knew and loved and the person who destroyed your life. I know there needs to be one point of forgiveness, but to my taste that moment came way too early. I missed another section of Maggie’s and Caleb’s thoughts from forgiving to loving each other.

There is a larger part of the story dedicated to telling the background story, about an accident that changed everything, the childhoods of both protagonists and connections throughout the years. I liked both characters and their alternating POVs but often I couldn’t completely follow their thoughts and actions. The tellings about Caleb’s time in juvenile jail sound very realistic and that’s something I appreciate in YA, not avoiding the tough topics or parts of a story.

Another aspect that interested me is the contrast between the peaceful smalltown setting of Paradise to the troubled characters living in it. The character cast and stories of secondary characters were ok, considering that they all got some kind of problem to concern the reader with. Still there were characters who act positively and who I really cared about, for eg. the old Mrs. Reynolds who is a snappy and cute lady that plays a role in both Caleb and Maggie’s lives.

You don’t need to think of LEAVING PARADISE as a depressing read, because it’s all about an accident but also the way back into life. It can also be sarcastic and full of optimistic emotions.

1) of a generous old lady
2) sometimes it takes time to do the right things
3) we’d love to be Pie testers
4) of bulbs and muumuus
5)  of someone that hands you back your racket

3/5 *** A fast read about two people, their love and the impact one single accident can have on a whole smalltown named Paradise.

One of Simone Elkeles’ early works that circles around a different topic than the PERFECT CHENMISTRY series. LEAVING PARADISE is more serious and presents itself in a different- more unpracticed- writing style.

* Don’t miss the sequel to LEAVING PARADISE, RETURN TO PARADISE!

* Read an excerpt of LEAVING PARADISE here

* Watch the book trailer here

* Visit for further information.
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