Author: Simone Elkeles
Release Date: April 1st 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.
I had high expectations for Leaving Paradise. Simone Elkeles wooed me over with Perfect Chemistry, sealed her fate as one of my favourite authors with Rules of Attraction and now, reading my third book to sprout from her genius brain, I'm 100% caught in the web of creative mastermind she's wickedly spun. Oh that woman knows how to wrap a reader around her finger.
Told from alternating POV's, we're introduced to Maggie Armstrong and Caleb Becker. Next-door neighbours. Childhood friends.Victim and Attacker. Caleb has always been in Maggie's heart, since the time they were kids. Maggie and Caleb's twin sister, were the best of friends. Caleb was the guy who never took a second glance at her, in a romantic sense.
Everything changed the night of the accident. Caleb was convicted of a hit-and-run - driving while under the influence of alcohol, he collided right into Maggie and drove off. The book starts one year after - Caleb is being released from Juvenile detention and Maggie is finally ready to return to school after having spent the last 12 months in and out of hospital, leaving her with a limp and horrible scarring on her leg.
Caleb and Maggie have both been secluded from their past friends over the year and as they try to return to some kind of normacly in life, they realise everyone around them has changed. Caleb's family has fallen apart and he holds a shocking secret that could change everything. Both start working the same after-school job for an old lady named Mrs. Reynolds, who becomes an important link in both their lives.
As the strong unfolds, we learn things aren't quite as black and white. We discover more about what happened the night of the accident, exchanges that happened between Caleb and Maggie beforehand and a shocking revelation that could change everything. The pair begin developing strong, genuine feelings for one another. Despite having caused this predicament for her, Caleb helps Maggie to become strong again. He gives her courage and helps push her out of the victim mindset, finally coming to terms with her life as it is now and moving on. She gives him forgiveness and breaks through to the real Caleb that few others bother to look at behind his tough, ex-con image.
He crippled her for life, she sent him to jail - but in the end they need one another to move on. Simone Elkeles has a way with writing her characters. She makes you feel such a genuine connection with the story they're telling and engages you in a whirlwind of emotions so that before you know it, you've reached the end and don't know what the heck to feel. I was expecting the same kind of ending Simone has delivered in Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction, so I was a little surprised and saddened (in a good way) with how the story concluded. It's realistic and bittersweet and makes me wish it wasn't a public holiday today so I could storm into my library and demand they lend me a copy of the sequel NOW.
A story about forgiveness, finding strength, letting down your barriers and the extremes we'll go to to protect the ones we love.
Author's Website: http://www.simoneelkeles.net/