Leaving Paradise (Paradise, # 1)
By: Simone Elkeles
Published: April 8th 2007 by Flux
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from library
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Goodreads description--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 remember seeing Leaving Paradise on a lot of blog hauls a few years back. I didn't have a particular reason for not picking it up then, but it's been on my TBR list since then. Well the other night I was scrolling through my library's list of "available now" books and saw Leaving Paradise. It sounded like just what I needed at that moment. And it turns out that I was right. I finished Leaving Paradise in just two days.
Caleb goes to jail for a year for driving drunk and hitting Maggie Armstrong with his car when he swerved to miss a squirrel and then left the scene of the accident. Truthfully, that seems like an easy sentencing to me even with him being a minor, but I know that the justice system can be all over the place. Caleb's spent the last year just waiting to get back home and get his life back to normal. But nothing will ever be the same for him. You can't go backward. Only forward. Caleb's family is suffering from a breakdown due to the accident. Everyone seems to be a shell of who they were before. His mother wants to put on a facade for the world and pretend everything's just fine. His father is content to give his mother anything she wants. And his sister has turned goth.
Maggie wants nothing more than to move forward. She's tired of looking around at everything she can no longer have. Her best friend, Caleb's sister, is no longer speaking to her. She can't play tennis. Her dad's new family. Her limp. She just wants to leave Paradise and go to Spain in a foreign exchange program. But when Caleb is released from jail, Maggie is suddenly forced to deal with a lot of the feelings she has regarding the accident and her life since. When she's forced into being around Caleb every day, she realizes that he might be the only person she can talk to about the accident because his life has changed as much as hers has.
Obviously these two begin to develop feelings for each other. And well the accident wasn't as black and white as it might appear. That was easily spotted for me from the very beginning of the book so I wasn't surprised in the least. But I still enjoyed the way it played into the story and how it shaped both Maggie and Caleb.
-It's hard keeping everything the same when the same things look and feel so different.
I really liked both of our main characters a lot. I liked seeing the growth in both of them as well as the obstacles that they had to overcome. The family that should have been supportive wasn't always or was too much. And sometimes it's the ones who you feel that you don't owe anything to that you can really open up and be yourself with.
In the end, I enjoyed Leaving Paradise. I thought the writing was really good even though the big secret was pretty obvious. I liked the characters and totally understood why and how they could end up in a relationship. I liked the ending because it made me want to pick up book 2 immediately (which I did). And I liked that while there was some language, things were kept pretty toned down. Leaving Paradise gets 4 Stars. Have you read Leaving Paradise? What did you think? Let me know!