Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Title: Leaving Paradise
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publication: April 2007 by Flux
Genre: YA Fiction/Romance
Rating: 5/5

This is one of those books that you better have nothing else planned for the entire day because you will not sit it down until it is finished. I devoured Leaving Paradise. I was so caught up in Maggies and Calebs story that I was reading through class, through lunch, through time when I was supposed to be studying for my Biology exam.  Yeah, bad idea. Note: this might be long. 

Anyways, Leaving Paradise is a twist on forbidden love. On a horrible night that changed everybody’s life in small town Paradise, Illinois, Caleb Becker hit Maggie Armstrong with his car after driving drunk from a party. Maggie had to go to the hospital and began extensive physical therapy sessions. She was doomed with a limp that would remain with her forever. Caleb went to a juvenile corrections complex as a convicted felon.

The story starts with Caleb being released out of jail with a sentence of one hundred and fifty community service hours. When Caleb returned back to his home, he realized everything was not the same as it was when he left it. His family, his friends, his whole life had been shattered. He ran into Maggie on a walk, and began a connection with her that left them both breathless, confused, and in desperate need of the truth.

"I'm going to kiss you." 
My stomach does a little flip; I forget about being mad. 
My nerves take over all emotions. "Here?"
"Oh, yeah. Right here, right now. You gonna run away this time?"
"I don't think so, but I'm not sure."

First of all, I loved the characters- 

Mrs. Reynolds. I wish she was my grandmother. Her honesty, her wisdom, her hilarious wit  had me smiling every time the lady spoke. Favorite leading character ever. 

Maggie. Wonderful, tormented, brave Maggie. She is one of my favorite female characters that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She was so realistic. After being hit by Caleb, her leg was so damaged she had to quit playing tennis. Playing tennis, to Maggie, was the most important thing in her life. She measured her worth in the fact that she wowed everyone in the audience when she took the court. With the loss of tennis, her world was completely changed. She lost her friends, and she lost her scholarship to Spain, her one chance to get away from everyone and everything in Paradise. Worst of all, she was blamed for sending Caleb to jail.  She had the weight of the world on her shoulders, and Maggie reacted like every teenage girl would. Sure, she might have seemed childish in some points, and she might have whined and complained, but she’s human. She’s a teenager. And if I were to be in her place, I would have done exactly the same thing.

Caleb. Caleb was broken, shattered, and completely devastated by what happened and what he had to endure through his time in jail. He is a character that at first, you don’t feel much sympathy for. He hit Maggie; he insulted her again and again, and just keeps lying to her. Caleb started to change. You realize he was a teenage boy who made a few mistakes. He had this tough, arrogant fa├žade up, but it started faltering. At first, Maggie was the only victim, but during the novel, the tides change and Caleb ended up being as much as one as Maggie. Worse, there’s something he’s not telling anybody; a secret that he swore he’d take to the grave, a secret that is eating him alive from where it is buried so deeply inside him. Of course, there were some parts where I wanted to kill him. Namely parts concerning a certain someone, cough cough Kendra.

Maggie and Caleb’s relationship started out slowly, like it should.  The buildup of their relationship was wonderful and real. Caleb was careful with Maggie; he didn't rush her or try to change her into something she’s not. They’re both two teenagers who have had to go through circumstances that many people never have to face. When there was no one else to turn to, they reached for each other. 

"I don't dare touch her, 'cause that would mean
that this is something more than it is. And I
know this... this feeling of friendship is a fleeting, 
temporary thing. What scares me to fucking death is that 
some part of my brain has decided this 
insignificant act of Maggie sitting next to me is 
the first step in fixing all that's gone wrong in my life.
Which makes it all the more significant."

Leaving Paradise was an emotional ride, and I loved every second of it. The writing was flawless and raw; emotions and feelings were intense and shown perfectly through the thoughts and words of a teenager. There were dealings with teenage drinking, jealousy, broken families, and self-esteem issues. Maggie had to deal with her self-image and the fact that whether she liked it or not, she was different, and there was nothing she could do about it. I really related to Maggie. She was alone in her battles and just wanted a loving hand. She was considered an outcast by her peers. She didn’t trust easily, and really she just wanted to run away and leave it all behind her. It never works out that easily, and she had to face it all with a brave face. In the end, she realized being herself was enough, and if someone didn't like it, she didn't need them in her life anyways. She faltered sometimes, but she always stood back up. 

// I loved this book so much I had to run out and get the sequel as soon as I could. And to be honest, I'm lazy. I'm in college so I had to wait for the bus to go out and get my car in the parking lot and then drive to the bookstore and then drive back to the bus stop and then wait to take the bus to my dorm. Like that is how much I loved this book. Return to Paradise will be up soon! 

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