leaving paradiseAuthor: Simone Elkeles

Number of Pages: 303

Publisher: Flux

Release Date: April 8, 2007

“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.”


This book intrigued me because it put a new twist on an old, frequently told story. It’s not rare to read a book in which a nice girl falls in love with a tough guy, and eventually he magically starts to like her because somehow her sweetness has cracked open the shell around his heart (or something like that- I never really quite understood how that all went down). But Simone Elkeles has managed to add a little something extra to this worn-out love story. The tension and conflict present between Maggie and Caleb due to the car accident increased the intensity of their emotions and created more depth in both the plot and the characters. The suspense of whether or not Caleb would go back to the DOC kept me turning pages, and Maggie’s situation with her leg had my heart aching. The plot was detailed enough to be continuously entertaining, but not so detailed that it became overwhelming.

I found Maggie to be a likeable and relatable character. Her dislike of the “popular” girls in her high school- the fake ones with too much money and ego for their own good- was easy for me to connect with. I don’t doubt that there are groups of girls like that in nearly every high school. Maggie’s emotions did not seem unrealistic or skewed, which was very refreshing. Many times in YA romance novels, the descriptions of emotions can get a bit lengthy. However, the ones in this novel were relevant and of and appropriate length. Maggie’s feelings about her father, Caleb, her hurt leg, her mother, her past group of friends- they were mostly all feelings that I could see myself having if I was in a similar situation. I wonder how Simone Elkeles knows just how much emotion to put into her stories?

Despite all of my positive thoughts so far, I have to say that there were some negative aspects to this novel. First, I was very disappointed with the ending. I know that since there is a sequel the book has to be left somewhat open-ended, but this just seemed so incredibly vague. It was almost as if the author suddenly said, “Well, I think I’ve had enough of this story for now!” and found the quickest way to end it. For lack of a better way to put it, I’ll simply say that the ending was very abrupt and vague. Also, even though the author added her own spin to it, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I had read the story many times before. Several parts were just too cliché for me to fully enjoy.

Overall, my feelings were more positive than negative where this novel is concerned. Even though the ending left my feeling unsatisfied, the detailed plot and the main character, Maggie, helped to make up for it. I am uncertain as to whether or not I will be reading the sequel soon, although I will probably read it at some point in the future. All in all, Leaving Paradise was a good read.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes!




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