Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles


Leaving Paradise, Book 1

Synopsis: 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.


Review: Another awesome novel by Simone Elkeles! As a great fan of the Fuentes brothers, it was a pleasure to get into Paradise. And I must say that once again I was transported by the Simone Elkeles writing!

Maggie is recovering from a car accident a year earlier. After several operations and rehabilitation sessions, she can finally go back to school. But things are not like before: her leg still hurts her, she limps, and all her friends have turned their backs. Before she was a popular high school student and very good in sports. Now she’s forced to confront the eyes of others. She has lost all her confidence and strength in the battle to save her leg. The responsible of her misfortune is Caleb. The story begins when he leaves the juvenile jail and returns to Paradise to live with his parents. All he wants is a normal life with his family. But when he returns, he finds that a lot of things have changed: he has in front of him a family completely broken. It’s difficult for him to adapt himself to this new situation and his image of an ex-convict is terribly uncomfortable. Curiously, these two people will end up comforting each other.

It was a deeply touching book. Simone Elkeles has brilliantly succeeded to capture the reader’s interest with this family story certainly quite simple but also imbued with a poignant realism. This kind of story happens in dailylife, it is a tragedy that could happen to anyone. Indeed, as my reading progressed I wondered how I would have reacted if it had been me, if I had been in Maggie’s place. This is what makes the strength of this story and once again, I loved it!

This book tells the story of two families, but also of two teenagers trying to re-establish their lives and move on after an accident. Maggie Armstrong was hit by a car. The driver was her neighbor, Caleb Becker, the twin brother of her best friend Leah, the guy she was secretly in love with. The story focuses essentially on the accident and its consequences for both families. The Becker and Armstrong were always together. But this tragic event ruined everything and ended the friendship between the two families. Now they live ignoring each other.

The reconciliation between the two young people is difficult. After the shock and the stupor, they try to rebuild themselves, each sharing the pain of the other. The task is not easy but gradually they arrive to get over it mostly thanks to the help of Mrs. Reynolds. I loved Maggie and Caleb. The two characters are very well worked and touching! Alternating the point of view, like in Perfect Chemistry, brings even more depth to their story. We understand what is going on in their minds, what are their fears, etc… Fortunately there’s Ms. Reynolds to lighten their mood: This old lady is a benefactor! She will do everything she can to help the two young people. Damon also tries to help Caleb.

It was a captivating story. I was also very surprised by the revelations at the end. As always with Simone Elkeles books, the style is fluid and easy to read. The author handles the writing with great ability. And as for this ending, Wow! I didn’t expect that at all. Now I have to buy the sequel or I’ll end up crazy! 

9 thoughts on “Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

  1. Le premier livre en VO que j’ai lu. Je suis actuellement en train de lire le second tome.
    Que dire à part que c’est du Simone Elkeles !? Je ne suis jamais déçue avec cette auteure. Elle a un grand talent pour transmettre les émotions que ressentent ses personnages aux lecteurs.
    Un très beau livre rempli d’émotions.

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