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.
Simone Elkeles is a genius. I don't know, for the life of me, how she writes such darn good teen books. How she captures that angst and tension so perfectly. It's irresistible. I am just compelled to read her books all in one go, whilst still wanting to savour everything I'm reading. But the thing I also loved about Leaving Paradise was that it wasn't all about the romance. It was about their lives too, and they didn't even talk properly until about halfway through the book.
But their personal lives were so interesting I didn't care. Both of Caleb and Maggie had been messed up by the accident, but I think that the families were a lot more affected by the accident. Maggie's mother turned overprotective to the max, whilst Caleb's family took the complete opposite approach and while Caleb was in juvie developed a total denial of the accident. And they were pretty darn messed up. At the end of the book, I wanted to just slap his dad for what he said to him, especially once the truth had been revealed, that Caleb was the selfish one! So everyone turning their back and not facing the accident isn't selfish at all. Placing all the blame on the son and not even trying to make amends to him, or even discuss the accident isn't being selfish. Completely ignoring the situation until his nearly explodes from the stress of it all and not even bothering to notice isn't being selfish?! Ugh, sorry, it just really irked me. His parents behaviour was despicable.
Caleb and Maggie got over the accident far better than their parents managed too, whether or not it was with their supposed 'enemies'. They were, at the end of it, the only chance they had of starting to move on. And they were really good together, dare I say it. Despite the arguments, the disputes, the accident, they made such a great couple. All thanks to Mrs. Reynolds ;) (Which, I think sucks that she's not even mentioned in blurb, but I guess she's not THAT relevant to getting people to read the book. But they wouldn;t have even started to talk to each other without her!) She was so lovely, and stubborn. She would be an awesome grandma!
I loved how Maggie's relationship helped her to become more confident, to not be deterred by her limp, to not get other peoples snide comments get her down. Particularly Kendra's. Boy, was Kendra a bitch or what?! Going around hanging on to Brian's sleeve and then sneaking around his smitten back to go fool around with Caleb, and being so darn selfish, saying that she wants Caleb as well as Brian, and going around being a bitch to other people i.e Maggie who like Caleb, and are sort of kinda in a relationship with him, that Kendra is not, and tormenting them... *adds Kendra to list of people who are desperately in need of a good ole' slap.*
*takes a deep breath* *calms down* Leaving Paradise is a brilliant book, with Elkeles trademark tension and an ending that will leave you a tiny bit (but not devastatingly) heart broken and in desperate need of the next book. I feel so bad for those who read it 2007, having to wait 3 whole years... I couldn't do it! 5 stars :)