Leaving Paradise

Leaving Paradise

4.5 419
by Simone Elkeles

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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,


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.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
Caleb and Maggie exhibit enough pain and anger to wreak havoc on their families and community, named, ironically, Paradise. Both missed their junior year of high school; Maggie, recovering from a car accident, and Caleb, jailed for hitting her while driving drunk. Now it's September and the beginning of their senior year. Each teen tries to slip back into old patterns that no longer fit. Classmates mock Maggie's awkward gait while anger and violence swirl around Caleb when he confronts his fellow students. Maggie's fury toward him turns her into a loner. And although Caleb spent a year in prison, he knows he will never be forgiven. Circumstances force them to work together and, under the benevolent eye of an elderly widow, they fall in love. Elkeles writes convincingly about family tensions, retreating from painful reality, and teens outgrowing their old skins. The plot has some twists and reversals that keep the story interesting, but doses of pop psychology are unnecessarily interjected. In keeping the story realistic, Elkeles doesn't tie up loose ends, but permits the characters to work through complicated emotions. Mild cursing and some sexual scenes make this book most suitable for high school readers.
—Lillian HeckerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

From the Publisher
"Elkeles creates raw emotions, dialogue, and high-school ambience that’s just right" – Booklist
"Gefühlvoll und romantisch mit Suchtcharakter!"

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A Leaving Paradise Novel , #1
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Read an Excerpt



I've been waiting a year for this moment. It's not every day you get a chance to get out of jail. Sure, in the game of Monopoly you just have to roll the dice three times and wait for a double, or pay the fine and be free. But there are no games here at the Illinois Department of Corrections- Juvenile complex; or the DOC as we inmates call it.

Oh, it's not as rough as it sounds. The all male juve­nile division is tough, but it's not like the adult DOC. You might ask why I've been locked up for the past year. I was convicted of hitting a girl with my car while driving drunk. It was a hit-and-run accident, too, which actually made the judge in my case royally pissed off. He tacked on an extra three months for that.

"You ready, Caleb?" Jerry, the cell guard, asks.

"Yes, sir." I've been waiting three hundred and ten days for this. Hell, yeah, I'm ready.

I take a deep breath and follow Jerry to the room where the review committee will evaluate me. I've been prepped by the other guys in my cell block. Sit up straight, look full of remorse, act polite, and all that stuff. But, to tell you the truth, how much can you trust guys who haven't gotten out themselves?

As Jerry opens the door to the evaluation room, my muscles start to twitch and I'm getting all sweaty beneath my state-issued coveralls, state-issued socks, and yep, even my state-issued briefs. Maybe I'm not so ready for this after all.

"Please sit down, Caleb," orders a woman wearing glasses and a stern look on her face.

I swear the scene is out of a bad movie. Seven people sitting behind six-foot-long tables in front of one lone metal chair.

I sit on the cold, hard metal.

"As you know, we're here to evaluate your ability to leave here and begin your life as a free citizen."

"Yes, ma'am," I say. "I'm ready to leave."

A big guy, who I can tell is going to play "bad cop," puts his hand up. "Whoa, slow down. We have a few ques­tions to ask before we make our decision."

Oh, man. "Sorry."

Big Guy checks my file, flipping page after page. "Tell me about the night of the accident."


The one night in my life I want to erase from history. Taking a deep breath, I say, "I was drinking at a party. I drove home, but lost control of the car. When I realized I hit someone, I freaked and drove back to the party."

"You knew the girl you hit?"

Memories assault me. "Yes, sir. Maggie Armstrong . . . my neighbor." I don't add she was my twin sister's best friend.

"And you didn't get out of the car to see if your neigh­bor was hurt?"

I shift in my chair. "I guess I wasn't thinking straight."

"You guess?" another committee member asks.

"If I could turn back time, I swear I would. I'd change everything."

They question me for another half hour and I spurt out answers. Why I was drinking while underage, why I'd get into a car drunk, why I left the scene of the accident. I don't know if I'm saying the wrong thing or right thing, which puts me on edge. I'm just being me . . . seventeen-year-old Caleb Becker. If they believe me, I stand a chance of getting released early. If they don't . . . well, I'll be eating crappy food for another six months and continue rooming with convicts.

Big Guy looks right at me. "How do we know you won't go on another drinking binge?"

I sit up straight in my chair and direct my attention to each and every one of the committee members. "No offense, but I never want to come back here again. I made a huge mistake, one that's haunted me day and night since I've been here. Just . . . let me go home." For the first time in my life, I'm tempted to grovel.

Instead, I sit back and wait for another question.

"Caleb, please wait outside while we make our deci­sion," the woman with the glasses says.

And it's over. Just like that.

I wait out in the hall. I'm usually not a guy who breaks under pressure, and the past year in jail has definitely given me an invisible piece of armor I wear around me. But waiting for a group of strangers to decide your fate is majorly nerve-wracking. I wipe beads of perspiration off my forehead.

"Don't worry," guard Jerry says. "If you didn't win them over, you might get another chance in a few months."

"Great," I mumble back, not consoled in the least.

Jerry chuckles, the shiny silver handcuffs hanging off his belt clinking with each movement. The dude likes his job too much.

We wait a half hour for someone to come out of the room and give me a sign of what's next. Freedom or more jail time?

I'm tired of being locked in my cell at night.

I'm tired of sleeping on a bunk bed with springs push­ing into my back.

And I'm tired of being watched twenty-four hours a day by guards, personnel, cameras, and other inmates.

The lady with the glasses opens the door. "Caleb, we're ready for you."

She isn't smiling. Is that a bad sign? I'm bracing myself


for bad news. I stand up and Jerry pats me on the back. A pity pat? Does he know something I don't? The suspense is freaking me out.

I sit back on the metal chair. All eyes are on me. Big Guy folds his hands on the table and says, "We all agree that your actions last year concerning the accident were repre­hensible."

I know that. I really know that.

"But we believe that was an isolated incident never to be repeated. You've demonstrated positive leadership qualities with other inmates and worked hard on your jobs here. The review committee has decided to release you and have you finish out your sentence with one hundred and fifty hours of community service."

Does that mean what I think it means? "Release? As in I can leave here?" I ask the Big Guy.

"You'll be meeting with your transition coach tomor­row morning. He'll arrange your community service duties and report your progress to us."

Another member of the committee points a manicured finger at me. "If you screw up, your transition counselor can petition the judge to bring you back here to serve out the rest of your sentence. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"We don't give breaks to repeaters. Go back home, be a model citizen, finish your community service require­ments, and have a good, clean life."

I get it. "I will," I say.

When I get back to my cell, the only one here is the new kid. He's twelve and still cries all the time. Maybe he should've thought twice before he buried a knife into the back of the girl who refused to go to the school dance with him.

"You ever gonna stop crying?" I ask the kid.

He's got his face in his pillow; I don't think he hears me. But then I hear a muffled, "I hate this place. I want to go home."

I change into my work boots because I get the pleasure of having to clean the dumpsters today. "Yeah, me too," I say. "But you're stuck here so you might as well suck it up and get with the program."

The kid sits up, sniffles, and wipes his nose with the back of his hand. "How long have you been here?"

"Almost a year."

That sets the kid plunging back into his pillow for more wailing. "I don't want to be locked up for a year," he cries.

Julio, another cell mate, walks into the room. "Seri­ously, Caleb, if that kid doesn't shut up, I'm gonna kill him. I haven't slept for three nights because of that cry­baby."

The wails stop, but then the sniffles start. Which are actually worse than the wailing.

"Julio, give the kid a break," I say.

"You're too soft, Caleb. Gotta toughen these kids up."

"So they can be like you? No offense, man, but you'd scare a serial killer," I say.


One look at Julio and you know he's a tough guy. Tat­toos all over his neck, back, and arms. Shaved head. When my mom comes for visits, she acts like his tattoos are con­tagious.

"So?" Julio says. "They gonna let you outta here?"
I sit on my bed. "Yeah. Tomorrow."
"Lucky sonofabitch. You goin' back to that small town

with a funny name? Wha's it called again?" "Paradise." "So I'll be stuck here alone with crybaby while you're

in Paradise? Ain't that a bitch." He gives the kid a wide-

eyed stare. If I didn't know Julio better, I'd be afraid, too. This sets the kid off again. Julio chuckles, then says "Well, I'll give you the num­

ber to my cousin Rio in Chicago. If you need to hightail it

out of Paradise, Rio will hook you up." "Thanks, man," I say. Julio shakes his head at the crying kid, says "Later,

amigo," and leaves the open cell. I tap the kid on his shoulder. He jerks away, scared. "I'm not gonna hurt you," I tell him. He turns to me. "That's what they all say. I heard about

what goes on in jails." He scoots his butt towards the wall. "Don't flatter yourself, kid. You're not my type. I like

chicks." "What about the guy with the tattoos?" I fight the urge to laugh. "He's hetero, too. Dude, you're

in a juvenile facility."

"He said he'll kill me."

"He says that because he likes you," I assure him. Julio has a sick sense of humor. "Now get off the bed, stop the crying, and go to group."

Group is group therapy. Where all the inmates sit around and discuss personal shit about their lives.

Tomorrow I'm getting the hell out of this place. No more group. No more cellmates. No more crappy food. No more cleaning dumpsters.

Tomorrow I'm going home.

Meet the Author

Simone Elkeles is the author of Leaving Paradise and four other Flux novels, including How to Ruin Your Summer Vacation and How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Repuation. She is also the author of the New York Times bestselling Rules of Attraction (Walker). A popular speaker at libraries around the country, when the author is not writing she TiVos reality television and watches teen movies. She lives near Chicago with her family and two dogs.

Simone Elkeles is the author of Leaving Paradise and four other Flux novels, including How to Ruin Your Summer Vacation and How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Repuation. She is also the author of the New York Times bestselling Rules of Attraction (Walker). A popular speaker at libraries around the country, when the author is not writing she TiVos reality television and watches teen movies. She lives near Chicago with her family and two dogs.

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Leaving Paradise 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 419 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Leaving Paradise is a touching story about a girl and boy brought together by a terrible accident that changed each others lives forever. It is a book that teens and even young adults can relate to. It shows forgiveness, relationships, stereotypes and how teens are harassed by their peers. It is not like your typical fairy tale story, where there is a happy ending or where you know what's going to happen next. There's a surprising twist that pulls you in until you're on the last page. Leaving paradise is an exceptionally easy read, alternating between the two characters, telling their sides of the story. It goes into depth about how their feeling and how there reacting to coming back from the accident that happened a year ago. Throughout the book it shows their weaknesses but how they eventually over come it together. The major message was saying how even though a situation may seem hard to cope with, it will get better throughout time, especially with people to support you in your worse moments and not to let anyone make you think nothing is not worth trying for. I like the ending and how it wasn't expected throughout the book, yet it was a bit dramatic. I think it could've been ended better since that was the only unreal part that wasn't likely to happen, but it was still a great book. I also liked how the author included every day situations throughout the whole story. It showed how the author knew what teenagers go through in life and how hard it can be to cope with, but he made this a very easy book to connect with, knowing that he knew what teens go through and not everything is a picture perfect moment. The girl, Maggie was a character any girl can relate with as she goes through the same problems of divorce and relationships as a teenage girl would in reality. I think it teens who like a good story that connects with the reader would really enjoy this book for its setting and plot and the depth the author gives the characters.
hitleli13 More than 1 year ago
When I started reading this book, I was imediatly absorbed. Both Caleb and Maggie have a strong personality, which is that much more interesting to read about them,... the only thing that I could have wished were different is the ending!!! Thank goodness there will be a sequel, I would have clawed my own eyes out if there wasn't one, ha ha!!
haley18 More than 1 year ago
"Are you following me?" she asks, but doesn't meet my gaze. "Yeah," I say. "Why?" I give her the only honest and true answer I have. "You're where I want to be." I read this book awhile ago, but am just now deciding to come back and write a review, because this book is way too good for me not to share my unconditional love for it with everyone. This book has alternating POV between Maggie and Caleb, Maggie use to have a lot of fiends, and was a star tennis player..but that was all before Caleb Becker her neighbor and best friends brother hit her with his car drunk one night..and left her there..now Maggie can't play tennis, and she limps where ever she goes, people stare and make fun of her, and her and her best friend don't even talk, everyday is a struggle for her and all she wishes is for it to be the end of the year so she can leave the small town of Paradise. Caleb a year later after hitting Maggie is getting out of juvie, he knows his home life will never be the same, but he hopes everyone can forgive and forget. As more and more secrets from that night are revealed Maggie and Caleb find comfort in something they never thought they would: each other. This book will hold you from the first page, till the very last. It will leave you feeling all warm inside and in shock of how beautiful and amazing the story you just read was. After reading Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles I could never have imagined her writing a better book because it was so good...and then came Leaving Paradise. Simone out did herself here, this book was even better then Perfect Chemistry, and if you've seen my review for Perfect Chemistry you will know that I freakin loved that book. This book had wonderful characters, perfect insight into both Maggie and Caleb's thoughts, one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read, and great character development was perfect. I could make this review probably a million pages long talking about why I loved it so much, but I'm just going to leave it at this: If you haven't read this book, get up and go read it, then come back and tell me how much you loved it. You wont regret it and that's a promise.
Ericka18 More than 1 year ago
I seriously could not stop thinking about this book. It is a great story that made me cry and smile. I loved it and enjoyed it. I highly recommend this book because it is simply amazing :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was okay. Good charachters, good plot, well thought out. I enjoyed it **********SPOILER********** i cant believe Caleb just..... left. Just like that. What? And they will never see each other again. What? ****** Overall, a good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book, can't wait to read return to paradise!
sbraden1 More than 1 year ago
It is still a really good book! It's your classic love story, with a twist. I started reading and finished this book in one day. And looking at Simone Elkeles webpage it looks like she is coming out with a sequel soon! So maybe there will be a happy ending after all :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Impulsively readable, but the ending was kind of disappointing. I will definitely be reading the next book though because I want to find out what happens next for Caleb and Maggie.
wordforteens More than 1 year ago
When I picked up Leaving Paradise, it was only because I wanted to start working on one of the giant segments of my TBR pile. I didn't really care what I was reading, as long as I was reading something. What I didn't expect was to start reading a book that I would be unable to put down for the next two hours, even if it meant sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor and reading because actually walking over to feed the guinea pig took too much time away from the book. Leaving Paradise was absolutely fantastic. Normally I'm not a fan of stories told from more than one point of view, but reading from both Caleb's point of view and Maggie's point of view was perfect. Both characters were amazingly well developed and I adored their story. There were moments that I sat there giggling because they were adorable and moments that I pounded a pillow because I was annoyed at what they did. And I adored the plot, because it wasn't just about Maggie and Caleb getting together or not - it was about what happened that night and about whether Caleb could stay out of jail and so many other things and it came together wonderfully with a plot twist I wasn't exactly expecting because I was so drawn into the story I wasn't trying to figure it out. Simone, you're doing it right.
Naj More than 1 year ago
Two lives that blended so well. Two lives that were connected by friendship and love. Two lives that were torn apart by an accident so tragic that one life was nearly ended and the other was locked up. I finished this book three days ago and I'm still buzzing around thinking about it. I can't get over how good this book is. It's not only because of the romance but because it's about re-lifting your spirits after a terrible accident that ruined both Caleb and Maggie's life. Elkeles books always seem to be about damaged characters that find their way back into life searching for happiness and a companion to go through life with. In this teen-book, she has done it again. She has created Maggie, the victim, who was left paralyzed and broken after the accident that the suspect, Caleb caused while drunk. Maggie spent an entire year recovering in and out of physical therapy and the hospitals while Caleb spent that year in a juvenile detention center with juveniles who have murdered and dealt drugs. When that year ended, Caleb goes back home and reunites with his victim. He knows he has to stay away from her but for some reason he just can't. Throughout the book, the readers witness how Maggie and Caleb adjusts to a life with bullies in school and parents who seem dead and mentally unstable. The readers get to witness how Maggie and Caleb's lives get tangled up with each other once again and they confide in each other when things go bad in school and at home. Simone Elkeles writes in such away that you can't help but connect with each protagonist in the book. That connection is the one thing that keeps the reader reading. And it is all it takes for a reader like me, to give this unputdownable book 5 stars! I am thrilled that there is a sequel, otherwise I would have been really throwing a tantrum around twitter. Time to get the second book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Leaving Paradise is a touching story about a girl named Maggie and a boy named brought together through a terrible accident that changed each others lives forever. This book is a book that teens and young adults can relate to. It shows things that teens go through everyday like being able to trust each other, forgiveness, relationships, stereotypes and, how teens are harassed. One night when Maggie was walking home,and Caleb started drinking and driving. On the way home he hit maggie while she was walking home causing her to never be allowed to walk again.After Caleb spends junior year in prison and Maggie spends the year in rehab the reconnect and learn to trust each other and end up falling into love. I think this author is trying to give the message off that even students can go through tough love. And that anything can happen to kids and people need to learn to forgive and forget because Maggie and Caleb did and they ended up in love. In the book, there is a twist that pulls you through every page and keeps you on your toes. I couldn't put the book down. I really liked how the author was detailed and very descriptive in his writing. On thing I didn't like was how strong the book was at the beginning then it kind of died off and picked back up a few pages later. It could of kept up and stayed strong the whole way through. Overall, I would give this book 5 stars out of 5 because I could relate to this book in so many ways and I think other teens and young adults can relate to Leaving Paradise as well.
PatriciaJL More than 1 year ago
Let me just first say how wonderfully surprised I am about this book! To be honest I didn't think I would really like it and I ended up LOVING it! I have found another author to add to my favorites. Where to begin... where to begin... Maggie Armstrong has been through surgery after surgery, physical therapy, physical pain, and emotional pain all in the last year - All because of Caleb Becker. Caleb Becker has been in Jail for the past year for putting Maggie in the hospital after hitting her with his car and then driving away. Maggie can no long play Tennis, she is no long part of the popular crowd and walks with a limp. Caleb is finally out of Jail and is back at home and school. Maggie's one wish is get away from Paradise, and leave behind everything. Caleb hopes he can make everything go back to normal he soon finds that he can not. However, both Maggie and Caleb find that making their wishes come true may be harder than they thought. Maggie and Caleb find themselves being forced to work together. Unbeknownst to Maggie, Caleb also has a secret that he refuses to share but that could change everything for both of them... Raw, emotional and real, I read this book in a day. I was riveted so much I couldn't put the book down! I felt for both Maggie and Caleb. From the very beginning I kept hoping the two would find peace between themselves. I love how Simone Elkeses was not afraid to use a real life situation of teenagers being sent to jail as part of the plot. Such a social issue is very hard to portray in a such a believable way - instead of Elkeles describing what Caleb went through in Jail she describes what he happened afterwards - I think this is something most people do not think about: how that person and the people around them are all affected in many different ways. You are given such a grim picture of how Caleb's family has been affected by his time in Jail: his mother is a pill popper, his twin sister has turned Goth, and his father is absent; basically his whole family just wants to avoid the whole situation and forget by acting as if nothing happened. I also really loved how the story was told by both point of views, both Maggie and Caleb. This way you can not be biased or favor either character. I can not wait for the sequel and I really hope Simone Elkes continues this series for as long as possible! A+++++
Marlene46 More than 1 year ago
So as you may already now, I love this author. To me, Simone Elkeles never disappoints. Leaving Paradise was actually the first I've read from her books and so this is how the glorious discovery of this super spectacular author started... I began reading this book in Barnes and Noble, my back lay against the teen favorites book shelf and when I saw that I couldn't stop reading I had to run to the cash register because whether I finished there or in my bedroom, I wanted Leaving Paradise in my possession. For Simone Elkeles, it's all about the characters and how they live. She works with the idea of confused and/or troubled teens who need a some positive energy to get them thinking of their life's worth and what better positive than love and forgiveness. Caleb Becker for one isn't feeling to good about himself, he not sure if he wants to live life portraying a boy who physically impairs teen girl, Maggie Armstrong by crashing into her while driving drunk. He's done his time in jail but things just don't feel how they should be. Maggie is trying to live as best she could with her permanent limp but she can't help her fury from being mad at the world...and Caleb. She finds no use in crying over the past but when she grows a curious relationship with Caleb she can't help but feel a number of emotions, ones that shouldn't even be worth a thought. This story was the first and certainly not my last by this author. I can never fully tell the ways of how Simone Elkeles stories have this amazing affect on me...it's all life, love, raw emotions, and humor...it's some of the best ya fiction out there... I strongly recommend Simone's books, you might hate it, you might love it, you might just think they're okay...but at least try them because one can never fully explain all the ways why her books are so likable.
Tiger_Holland More than 1 year ago
Welcome to Paradise, home to two of the most justifiably miserable teens in existence. Caleb has just spent a year in juvenile detention, and Maggie's spent a year in surgeries and painful physical therapy for her legs. And these separate tragedies are actually just offshoots of the same horrible accident: A year ago, Caleb Becker was convicted of a hit-and-run, where he was driving under the influence and ran into his sister's best friend, Maggie Armstrong. Now Maggie can walk again, Caleb's returning to high school, and they both have to deal with the fallout from the accident. This book really engaged my emotions. When the protagonists were hurt, I was hurt, when they had triumphs, I was grinning like crazy. My heart goes out to poor sweet Maggie! After a year spent away from school and friends, her former buddies have all gotten distant and obsessed with physical appearances, and a freshly unpopular girl with scarred legs and impaired mobility doesn't rank high on their priority lists. I just want to give them all a big-sister slap on Maggie's behalf. This is not how we behave, ladies! We're supposed to reach out and love people who are hurting and left out! Her former buddies only form a small part of the story, but somehow their casual indifference to her pain made me as angry as if they had been straight-up mean girls out to wreck her life. And, as with most physical impairments, Maggie's messed-up legs cause more problems for her than just the obvious. She used to be a tennis star, and and now she's left without the ability to do the one thing that made her feel strong and valuable and worthy of the attentions of her absentee jerk father (who left their family, remarried, and has visited Maggie once since the accident that maimed her! Grr). I can't even get into half of Caleb's issues and challenges without spoilering, but I will say that he's as endearing and complex an MC as Maggie is. He's stigmatized by his stint in kiddie-prison (people frequently refer to him as an "ex-con"), and he's forced to act happy and functional around his mom's social circle, all while his family is going nuts around him: his dad's a pushover, his mom is obsessed with public opinion and impressing her country-club friends, and his twin sister has transformed from a sunshiny flirt into a goth loner. Caleb is by far the most stable, sensible member of his family, and not even his time in prison has managed to turn him into a monster. Now, all he has to do is convince Maggie and everybody else of that fact. And he's clever and even funny on occasion. When he and Maggie finally run into each other for the first time since his release, he actually says, "This is awkward," and I love him for it. Can I just say how much I love Simone Elkeles' way of writing characters with real problems? These two have enough problems to depress Hamlet himself, but they're both fighters. And for people who would make natural enemies, their budding romance is sure compelling, in part because Elkeles can write the "bad boy with a heart of gold" character better than almost any YA author on the market today. My one beef with the book was the ending, which made me go, "What do you mean, that's the end?" But I gritted my teeth and accepted the cliffhanger, on the knowledge that the sequel to Leaving Paradise is coming out in September, 2010. Guess who'll be buying it the second it hits shelves? Moi.
MarieHawks More than 1 year ago
This was a good lesson story. It was romantic and funny at times. It is good for troubled teens. Ones going through tough times. There were some surprises in there, that will make you want to re-read. This is a book that will stick with you.
SeeMichelleRead More than 1 year ago
Small town life can be peaceful, even idyllic but for Maggie Armstrong or Caleb Becker, their quaint hometown of Paradise, Illinois has come to mean nothing of the sort. Their lives were forever changed the night Caleb, drunk, got behind the wheel of a car and hit his twin sisters' best friend, Maggie, and then fled the scene of the crime. For the past year, he's grimly paid for his mistake in juvenile prison but to Maggie, Caleb's debt to her is far from paid. In the past year, she's had surgery after surgery to reconstruct her leg, leaving her with some nasty scars and an awkward limp. Once popular and athletic, Maggie is now a freak, a loner and bitter. Hoping to return to his former life after being released from jail, Caleb returns to find his family a hollow shell and his once easy friendships, forced. Neither are ready to face the reality or the consequences of that awful night one year ago but it's not easy to hide in a small town like Paradise. The past, even one as painful as Caleb and Maggie's, has a way of catching up with you. Wow. I am fast becoming enamored with everything Simone Elkeles. From page one, Ms. Elkeles had me captured with descriptions of Caleb's anxiety over leaving juvie and Maggie's desperation to get out of Paradise. "Leaving Paradise" was again told from alternating POV chapters between Maggie and Caleb, like her "Perfect Chemistry" novels, which might have sealed the deal for me. This is actually one feature that I am coming to desperately love about Ms. Elkeles' books. She shifts so flawlessly back and forth between her male and female characters that it makes the novel simply fly by. Both voices fairly explode off the page in honesty and vibrancy. I'm beginning to think this technique is becoming a favorite of mine because it can subtly underscore the differences between such disparate characters like Maggie and Caleb without ever making direct comparisons. I'm all about a little subtly going a long way. "Leaving Paradise" is a distinct departure from Simone Elkeles' fun and flirty "Perfect Chemistry" world. That's not to say that their isn't a hint of very real danger in "Perfect Chemistry" (there is) but "Leaving Paradise" was more of a emotionally taxing read. Maggie and Caleb have been dealt a pretty raw deal, which has left them extremely frustrated with their circumstances and feeling powerless to change them. Understandably, the struggles Maggie and Caleb face are some truly scary hurdles. Forgiveness. Self-acceptance. Trust. All very delicate topics that were handled with such straightforward honesty in this gut-wrenching book. And yet there were moments of humor and joy - just don't expect the entire book to be one big happily ever after. Because truthfully, the ending absolutely tore me up. I'm not kidding when I say it's one that will wring your heart a million times over and then leave you hoping, hoping for a better future for Maggie and Caleb. Because if anyone deserves it, those two do.
Shadowcrawler More than 1 year ago
This story is mesmerizing. The minute I picked it up I could not put it down. The emotion you can feel in this story is incredibly real. I have recommended this book to many people and the only complaint they had was that the book had ended in the middle of the story. All of them cannot wait until the sequel comes out. Leaving Paradise was beautifully written, and I cannot find any faults with it.
ehanog More than 1 year ago
The headline says it all one of the hands down best books I've ever read. You're immediately engaged with the beginning of the story, you're intrigued in trying to solve the mystery of what happened the night that Maggie Armstrong was run over, and how bad boy Caleb did or didn't have something to do with it. This story pulls you in and doesn't let you out, it's so enticing. Can't wait for the sequel to see exactly where Maggie and Caleb end up. They're two of my all time favorite characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
<3 Mrs.Reynolds forever. Great person
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is full of emotion. I loved the story and the characters from the start!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story and it's sequel. It has so many plot twists, and kept me reading, that I finished it within a few hours. It tells the point of view from both Maggie and Caleb's perspectives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was ok. Probably geared more for a young teen.