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Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

I was still reeling from reading Mockingjay, and I was looking for a perfect distraction (painful withdrawals from the series, I guess) to take my mind off it and I remembered this book.

I may have chosen a book a bit too serious for me, but this is a refreshing read, considering I just finished MJ. And very different.

Title: Leaving Paradise
Author: Simone Elkeles
Pages: 303


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.

I can’t help but notice, since this is the third Simone Elkeles book I’ve read, but her books seem to be almost always dealing with kids who are having a rough time growing up, with their lives which they think (most of the time) was royally screwed up. I am not complaining with that, but I think I see a theme here.

I just can’t help but be fascinated. These books might have a central theme to it, but it doesn’t get boring. It’s not predictable. It’s not the same as the two other books I’ve read.

Maggie Armstrong has not been the same girl she was the moment Caleb Becker run her over while he was driving drunk. Caleb got sentenced to juvie jail, but Maggie has to live her life dealing with the accident, dealing with the aftermath. She went from popular to unknown, hot to weird, star tennis player to the girl with a limp who couldn’t do anything. Her home life was as messed up as her knee, her parents got divorced and she misses her father so much.

Caleb’s life wasn’t any better as well. Being released early from juvie jail, all he wanted was to prove to everyone that being locked up didn’t mean he’s a convict. That it didn’t messed him up. But the truth is, everything changed the moment he was locked up. His parents tried their best to pretend everything was fine. His twin sister, who was once best friends with Maggie was now someone Caleb couldn’t even recognize. Every one in his family treats him like a stranger, and everyone in school thinks he’s a piece of trash.

Caleb, however was protecting a secret. A secret that he’ll take to the grave. And it was this secret that locked him up in juvie. That things aren’t as simple as it seems.

These two people, confused and desperately yearning for someone to understand them, and in some twist of fate, ended up comforting each other, getting through their messed up lives with one another, and in the end, falling helplessly in love with each other.

But sometimes, love wasn’t enough.

I feel frustrated for Caleb. He’s a good kid who’s made some wrong choices in his life, and pays dearly for something he didn’t do. I feel sad for his family. I have a close-knit family who I know will be with me through thick and thin and it’s just devastating to know that your own family couldn’t even stand the sight of you when they were supposed to be the one who should be protecting you in the first place.

It was hard to connect with Maggie, but everything she felt was understandable. I felt frustrated when she struggled with everything, and I cheered her on when she felt it was time to change and finally accept the 'new.

Simone Elkeles has a knack for writing about complicated issues using simple words and conveying it effectively. She doesn’t fail to rouse emotions inside of me whenever I read her novels, and I think that’s just pure genius. However, for me, this book wasn't as stunning as the others I've read. I felt as if there was something lacking, something more I need to read.

However, I couldn’t stop myself, I’m starting Return to Paradise as soon as I finished this book, and I really want to know what happened between Caleb and Maggie. I didn’t really like the ending of this book, it felt like a lot has been left completely hanging, but I know the second book would fix all of that. I can’t wait!

Rating: ★★★★☆ : FANTASTIC! - This is a really nice book. I love it!


  1. Is Return to Paradise already available here? Just wondering because you mentioned that you'll start reading it after this one. I've only read Perfect Chemistry and I loved it. Rules of Attraction is in my wishlist now that it's available here. I'm really curious about this one as well but it seems more serious that the other two that I mentioned.

  2. Hey there Chachic. Nope, I have the Kindle version. ^^ Couldn't wait for the paperback version (which of course, I'll still buy once it becomes available here)

    I get Kindle versions if the books aren't available here yet ^^ Wait, Rules of Attraction is available here already? Haven't seen it anywhere!

  3. I love this book so much. I read it way before Perfect Chemistry and before Simeone's huge popularity. I'm super glad to see her receiving so much love and adoration for her work. She is awesome. :D

  4. I love Simone Elkeles books but I did't like Leaving Paradise as much as I loved Perfect Chemistry, I felt the same thing about the ending, I didn't like it either but hopefully the second book can tell us more about the couple!


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