Return to Paradiseby Simone Elkeles
Flux's First New York Times Bestseller!
From the New York Times Bestselling Author of RULES OF ATTRACTIONLEAVING PARADISE
Praise for Leaving Paradise:
"Elkeles writes convincingly about family tensions, retreating from painful reality, and teens outgrowing their old/b>/b>/b>/b>/b>/b>/b>/b>/b>
Flux's First New York Times Bestseller!
From the New York Times Bestselling Author of RULES OF ATTRACTIONLEAVING PARADISE
Praise for Leaving Paradise:
"Elkeles writes convincingly about family tensions, retreating from painful reality, and teens outgrowing their old skins."School Library Journal
"Elkeles creates raw emotions, dialogue, and high-school ambience that’s just right… [A] delicate, delicious love story."Booklist
“This emotionally honest, fast-paced sequel to Elkeles's Leaving Paradise (Flux, 2007) reads like a stand-alone novel. In that book, Caleb Becker assumed responsibility for the drunk-driving accident that left Maggie Armstrong with a permanent limp, and he endured a year in juvenile detention. He came home to begin again, but after a brief but intense relationship with Maggie, he left Paradise once more. In this book, Caleb's transition counselor plans to have him join a group called ‘Re-START,’ conducting meetings and presentations designed to help teens make smart choices. This program lands him face to face with Maggie, and over the course of the summer they work through feelings of anger, frustration, tension, attraction, and affection. Their relationship is played against the backdrop of the other members of their group. Written from Maggie's and Caleb's alternating perspectives, the conversational narratives occasionally contain vulgar language, but they give readers insights into the way the characters think, feel, and act toward one another. Teens will be compelled to continue reading as the angst is vividly played out with all its raw passion, desire, tension, trust, loss, and gain. Maggie and Caleb are great characters, and the supporting cast provides a much-needed backdrop of support and guidance. Maturity and responsibility for one's actions are also important themes. Elkeles gives readers a thoroughly satisfying novel and much to think about.” - School Library Journal
Read an Excerpt
return to paradise
By SIMONE ELKELES
FluxCopyright © 2010 Simone Elkeles
All right reserved.
Some people are damn lucky. Unfortunately I've never been one of those people. In fact, I think I'm one of those guys destined to always be caught in the crossfire. As I sit in the back of a squad car with handcuffs digging into my wrists, I think back to the first time I got arrested, almost two years ago.
I'd been drinking.
I was wasted.
And I was arrested for a crime I didn't commit.
Didn't matter, though. I got locked in juvie for a year anyway, mostly because I pled guilty to the hit-and-run drunk driving charges.
This time I'm getting arrested for drugs. Except I didn't smoke, inhale, ingest, snort, shoot up, or buy the shit. Okay, I admit I was living in a drug house. It was either keep a roof over my head and ignore the illegal stuff going on around me, or live on the streets.
I chose the roof. Looking back, maybe it wasn't the wisest choice. Living on the streets sounds mighty tempting right now. Nothing is worse than being locked up like a caged animal and relinquishing control of your own life. Being told when to shit, shower, shave, eat, and sleep isn't my idea of paradise. But then again, Paradise, where I grew up, wasn't paradise either. I'm wondering if paradise is just some word in the dictionary with the definition: this doesn't fucking exist.
I lean my head against the back seat of the squad car, wondering how I'm gonna get out of this. I have no money, no real friends, and my family ... well, I haven't had any contact with them since I left Paradise eight months ago.
When we arrive at the police station, the cop escorts me to a lady who has the exciting job of taking my mug shot. Then the cop orders me to his desk and introduces himself as Lieutenant Ramsey.
"Don't try anything stupid," he tells me as he unlocks the handcuff on my right wrist and secures it to a metal hook on his desk so if I wanted to flee I'd have to lug a fifty-pound desk with me. Needless to say, I'm not going anywhere.
After asking me a bunch of questions, he leaves me alone. I look around for Rio, one of my five roommates. We all got busted at the same time, when Rio and another one of our roommates were selling a crapload of meth to three guys who, if you ask me, looked like undercover cops who were just dressed up as badass gangsters. I think it was the gold tooth on one of the guys that gave it away. It looked like it'd been glued on and I could have sworn it became loose at one point and he swallowed it.
That was right before they pulled out their guns and yelled for us to kneel on the ground and put our hands on our heads. I'd been watching some reality show about a pawn shop, because the last thing I needed was to be involved in Rio's business.
Rio had asked me to help him make some runs a couple times, and I did. But I don't get off on selling drugs to guys who're so desperate to get high they'll give me their last dime to get it. The last time I was supposed to sell drugs for Rio, it was to a guy with three kids. He brought his three kids to our house, and when I saw their long, drawn faces and their ragged, torn clothes, I couldn't do it. I refused to sell him the stuff. Not that that makes me a good person or anything, especially because I know if I didn't sell it to him someone else would.
"Listen, Caleb," Ramsey says as he opens up a file folder with my name on the tab at the top. "You've got yourself in big trouble. Chicago judges aren't lenient on repeaters, especially when they're living in drug houses with over fifty thousand worth of meth and Z-tabs."
"I'm not a dealer," I tell him. "I work at Chicago Recycling."
"Just because you've got a job doesn't mean you don't deal." He picks up his phone and hands me the receiver. "You get one phone call. Tell me what number to dial."
I put the receiver down on his desk. "I waive my right to a call."
"Family? Friends?" he suggests.
I shake my head. "Don't got any."
Ramsey rests the handset back on the phone. "Don't you want someone to bail you out? The judge'll set bail later today or tomorrow. You should be prepared."
When I don't respond, he flips through my file. He looks up after a couple of minutes. "It says here Damon Manning was your transition counselor."
Damon Manning was supposed to make sure I stayed out of trouble back when I got released from juvie. He was a big black guy who scared my mom to death when he walked in our house during his scheduled visits. Damon assigned me my community service job and constantly drilled me on how to transition from being in jail to being back at home. He wouldn't take one-word responses or silence for an answer. The guy was a hardass who didn't take shit from anyone, and whenever I fucked up he let me know I better shape up or he would be personally responsible for telling the judge to lock me back up. I had no doubt that he'd do it, too.
Ramsey jots a number down and sets it in front of me.
"Damon Manning's phone number."
"And why would I want it?" I ask him.
"If you don't have family or friends to bail you out, I suggest you call him."
I shake my head and say, "No way."
Ramsey pushes the phone toward me and leans back in his chair. "Call him. If you don't, I will."
"Because I read Damon's reports on you, and he's rarely wrong about his assessments."
"What did he write?" That I was a complete fuckup who deserved to be locked up permanently?
"Why don't you call him and ask him yourself? You're in big trouble, Caleb. You need someone on your side right now."
I look at the phone and shake my head in frustration. Ramsey doesn't look like he's giving me a choice. I pick up the phone and dial the number.
"This is Damon," a deep voice answers.
I clear my throat. "Umm ... this is Caleb. Caleb Becker."
"Why are you callin' me?"
"I kind of got in trouble," I say, then clear my throat. I take a deep breath and reluctantly blurt out, "I need your help."
"Help? I didn't know you knew that word."
I briefly explain the situation. He sighs heavily a bunch of times, but says he's on his way over to the station. After my call, I'm escorted to a holding cell and wait for him. An hour later I'm told I have a visitor and am led to what I assume is one of the interrogation rooms. Oh, man. If things weren't bad enough, I have a feeling they're about to get worse as a very pissed-off Damon walks through the metal bulletproof door.
"What the hell did you get yourself into, Becker?"
"A shitload of trouble," I tell him.
Damon crosses his arms on his chest. "I could have sworn you were a guy who made one mistake and was going to turn his life around." He gets a distant, almost sad look on his face, but it's quickly masked. "I got to admit you reminded me of myself when I was your age."
"Yeah, well, you were obviously wrong."
He narrows his eyes at me. "Was I?"
This isn't the way it was supposed to be. I left Paradise to make everything better, but all I've managed to do is fuck things up for myself. I look Damon straight in the eye. "I didn't do it," I tell him. "I'm not a dealer."
"Why should I believe you?"
"Because it's the truth." I let out a breath, knowing it's a lost cause to plead my case but doing it anyway. "I don't expect you to believe me."
"Have you lied to me in the past?"
I close my eyes and shake my head. I can't tell Damon that I wasn't the one who hit Maggie. I told Leah I'd take that secret to the grave. I can't betray my own twin. Not now, and not ever. "Forget it."
"You're on the wrong path," Damon tells me.
"I didn't have a choice." I let out a long, slow breath and decide to level with him. About some stuff, anyway. "I found out my mom was addicted to meds. I think me being home made it worse. She kept expecting me to fake it that everything was okay. My entire family went along with the bullshit. I couldn't. Maggie was the only one keeping me sane, but I couldn't see her without getting shit from the cops, my parents, her mom, and even you. You once said I should get out of Paradise instead of getting close to Maggie. So now I'm here."
"Living with a drug dealer isn't a better option," Damon says, stating the obvious.
"It was a roof over my head."
"There are always options other than living with thugs," Damon tells me.
"Yeah, right." I look down at the red mark the handcuffs left on my skin. I seem to be all out of options right now.
"I'm really disappointed in you."
Disappointed is better than angry. I've seen Damon angry. He stiffens up like a bull with a thorn up his ass. Hell, when I got suspended from school for fighting, Damon looked ready to single-handedly kick my ass. The guy is huge and must weigh close to two-eighty. I'm not a lightweight, but he could sit on me and crush my bones.
"I'll be right back," Damon says, then leaves me alone in the room.
Ramsey comes back a half hour later, with Damon following in his wake. The officer sits on the edge of the small table in the room and looks down at me. "You're lucky, kid."
I'm about to be tossed in jail. I'm not feeling lucky right about now.
"I just talked to Judge Hanson," Damon says. "You'll have your arraignment this afternoon, and I'll pay any bail set. I'm friends with the district attorney who'll help you."
"Why would you do that for me?" I ask.
"Because someone did it for me a while back. There's one condition," he says.
Here it comes. The ax is about to fall. "What?" My ex-transition counselor has a stern look on his face. "You join Re-START."
"It's a group of kids whose lives have been affected by reckless teen driving. We're traveling for a month together, and each participant shares their story with various groups of kids in the Midwest. We'll be roughing it, so don't expect fancy hotels or the royal treatment. We'll be staying in dorms and campgrounds. This arrest isn't about drugs, Caleb. It's a direct result of your accident in Paradise. Join the program and help others. If you don't agree to come with me, I'm out of here. If I leave, I have no doubt they'll lock you up for good and throw away the key. You're eighteen now. If you thought juvie was awful, I guarantee that adult lockup will be one hundred times worse."
"So I really don't have a choice?"
"You do. Stay here and enjoy the fine hospitality of our state prisons, or get off your ass and follow me."
So there isn't a choice. One of the options is something I'd do practically anything to avoid. Even if it includes spending time with my old transition counselor.
We don't speak much the entire one-and-a-half-hour drive out to Redwood. He tries to ask me questions and I do my best to dodge them. When we pull up the driveway of a one-story duplex, he explains, "You'll sleep at my place tonight, and meet up with the rest of the group tomorrow afternoon."
Inside, I drop my duffle next to a faded plaid couch. On the mantle above the empty fireplace is a picture of Damon with a little boy, about eight years old, in a Little League uniform.
"Is he yours?" I ask him, wondering how this guy ended up living alone in a small town in the middle of the boondocks of Illinois. Paradise isn't too far away from here.
It's obvious from the look of the place he lives alone. There's no artwork on the bare white walls. The place isn't like my house back in Paradise - it's too plain and too unused, like he just comes here to sleep and that's it.
"You divorced?" I ask.
"You gonna stop asking questions? I think I liked you better on the ride here, when you didn't talk at all."
After Damon makes a surprisingly good dinner of chicken and rice that reminds me of my mom's cooking, he heads down a narrow hall to bed. It's quiet in the house. I'm not used to this much silence. At Rio's place, there were always people partying or coming in and out at all hours. I didn't mind, because I don't sleep much anyway.
I turn the light off although I know I'm not going to get much sleep tonight. It'll be like usual ... every fifteen minutes I'll wake up and stare at the ceiling and pray for sleep to come. It does, but in such short spurts I wonder what it'd be like to get a full night's sleep with no interruptions. That hasn't happened for years ... since before the accident.
In the morning I'm eating some healthy whole-grain type of cereal when Damon walks into the kitchen. I can't help but ask, "Why did you help me?"
"Because I think you're a good kid," he says, his back to me as he stands in front of the stove and fries some eggs. "You just have to make better choices."
In the late afternoon, we throw our bags in the car. Damon stops off at the Redwood community center, where a big white van is waiting for us. He gets summoned into the building and tells me to hang by the van and introduce myself to the rest of the group. There's two other guys and three girls standing there waiting with their baggage.
When one of the girls moves aside and I get a glimpse of the person she was shielding, my entire body goes numb.
Excerpted from return to paradise by SIMONE ELKELES Copyright © 2010 by Simone Elkeles. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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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.
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Caleb got in trouble. Again. It been eight months since he left Paradise, the small town he grew up in, and isn't planning on returning. So when its his turn to call, he waives it. But the cop insists he call Damon, his guidance counselor from the year before. He agrees to bail him out, if he'll join Re-Start, a program for teens affected by drunk and reckless driving. When Caleb arrives for the trip, he sees someone he never thought he'd see again. Maggie. Return To Paradise is the sequel to Leaving Paradise, and for those of you who have read it, you were probably mad at the huge cliff hanger ending. It's told alternating between the two characters' perspectives, Caleb and Maggie, like the previous novel. Which, I have to say, disappointed me. While some parts of Caleb's view seemed real, most did not. A lot of female authors just can't write from male perspectives, and Simone Elkeles is one of them. The drama felt a little forced; And the way Maggie and Caleb's romance was off again on again, where one moment Maggie hated him, then next she was kissing him, seemed unreal and made Maggie look stupid. In Leaving Paradise, I understood Maggie, but in Return To Paradise, she was kind of boring. Return To Paradise is a good sequel, not as good as the first book, but still worth reading. *I would actually rate Return to Paradise a 3 1/2, because it deserves more than a three but less than a four.
Leaving Paradise, Caleb Becker thought he would have a better life, even if it meant letting go of Maggie. Yet Caleb still finds himself in trouble, once again not being his fault. With the departure of Caleb, Maggie Armstrong waited and waited for his return. As the days went by, the chances of reuniting with Caleb seemed non-existent. So Maggie decided that she would become stronger, to become more independent. As if fate had another plan for them, Caleb and Maggie are reunited with the help of the Re-START program. The program that will keep Caleb from going to jail again and will help Maggie cope. During the four-week trip, Maggie and Caleb and four other teens drive around, talking to others about the accidents that they may have caused or experienced firsthand. As the trip continues, emotions and feelings between Caleb and Maggie arise once again, creating conflicts, confusion, and breakdowns. Maggie knows the truth about the accident and all she wants is for Caleb to tell her himself. But Caleb is not aware that Maggie already knows, and doesn't want to break his promise to his sister. In the end, the only way to make their relationship stronger is for Caleb to return to Paradise, where he will ultimately resolve the issues surrounding the accident, including those dealing with his family. However, doing so could have a negative outcome for his sister. Is Caleb willing to take the risk in order to finally develop a lasting relationship with Maggie, or will his promise to his sister mean more? Once again, Simone Elkeles geniusly writes a sequel that allows the reader to fall in love all over again with her characters. Maggie and Caleb are unquestionably the strongest, and of course cutest, characters and continue to be throughout the story as they both push each other because they know it is for the best. The addition of lovable characters such as Lenny and Julio adds another dynamic to the novel that makes it even more enjoyable. RETURN TO PARADISE will not disappoint readers who enjoyed LEAVING PARADISE.
If you've been a long time follower of my reviews you might remember my gushing one for Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles- an author who has yet to disappoint me in any way- so as you can imagine when I received the sequel to that oh-so-yummy-and-addicting novel, I was just a bit squeal-happy. Well, maybe just a lot more than just a bit, but anyhow, as I was soon to find out, Return to Paradise was definitely worth the wait. Because not only was it better than its prequel (which I didn't think could happen), it was nothing short of amazing/rock-my-socks-off fantastic!! As the reader begins Return to Paradise it's been eight months since Caleb left, taking not only Maggie's heart with him but his dark secret about what really happened the night he was arrested and Maggie was left disabled and abandoned in the middle of the street alone. And while each of them still wants and misses each other more than ever, they've moved on with their lives the best they could. Maggie finished high school and is going to Spain in a few months, and Caleb has been in Chicago trying to make enough to support himself on. Though, as it turns out, fate isn't done with them yet, as they are soon to learn when they find themselves together on summer trip with four other teens that have also been affected by drunk driving. Together again they find themselves torn between the what-ifs: what if they got back together, what if Caleb finally admit what truly happened that night, and a star crossed romance that would make almost any teen girl (or even boy) swoon. The one thing I always love about follow-up novels is seeing how the characters have grown over the time that the reader has been away from their story, and with Return to Paradise both characters have definitely grown a lot over the past eight months. For Maggie, she finally has a backbone, but don't get me wrong, she still has a big heart, especially when Caleb is involved. For Caleb, he's gotten a bit worse because of the fact he's tougher and more confrontational than ever, though it's easy to see it's just a cover for the poor lost boy he is underneath it all. The one thing I love about these characters, and all of Simone's characters in general, is that there real in a way that they make mistakes and learn from them, that they have faults and good points that help them grow, and that their lives aren't perfect even if it does appear so for some of the characters, because as anyone knows, no one's life is perfect. Anyhow, moving on, just as I did with the prequel I loved the romance between Caleb and Maggie. Because seriously those two are so sweet and caring with each other and always manage to bring the best in each other out for the world to see. And talking about characters, I just loved the secondary ones introduced in this. All of them are so unique, and some of them, like Lenny and Trish, brought out several laugh-out-loud moments. The plot in this was fact paced and when mixed with Simone's easy going and smooth writing, it moved in a rapid pace, one that made this the ultimate unputdownable book. I especially loved the way that while some parts of this book were predictable, Simone also had several moments that I didn't see coming from a mile away! In all, Return to Paradise (as well as its prequel if you haven't read that one yet) is a must read for this fall season. Because seriously, what's better than reading one of Simone Elkeles swoon worthy teen dramas on a fall day?
WELL I WAS JUST LOOKING AROUND ON GOOGLE AT A PLACE WHERE I COULD READ SOME OF THIS BOOK. I READ THE FIRST ON LEAVING PARADISE AN INSTANTLY FEEL IN THE WITH THE CHARACTERS. WELL ANYWAY IF YOU GO TO GOOGLE BOOKS.COM YOU CAN READ THE FIRST SIX CHAPTERS.SO FAR THIS IS A GREAT BOOK AND I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL IT IS FINALLY OUT!!!
"You are my paradise.." Loveeee Caleb!
The first book was okay with a bad ending, but this was simply touching
I cannot wait for the sequel!! I am excited to see what will happen between Maggie and Caleb. They have to be one of the best fictional couples I have ever read about, their story draws you right in. I loved how Caleb fell so in love with Maggie. I know that Simone Elkeles will deliver an incredible sequel and hopefully a wonderful ending for Maggie and Caleb.
This book was still pretty emotional without being over the top. I enjoy the characters and the trials they go through . I also enjoy that it is a quick read. The author doesn't go through every day in painstaking detail, which is nice.
Plot is good but its long and drawn out and a tad boring
I cant wait to buy it and read it! i loved the first one ,leaving paradise, i read it in one day i couldnt put the book down
The sequel to LEAVING PARADISE circles around Maggie, Caleb and the accident…again. There might still be the need to talk about Maggie and Caleb’s feelings and the events of the past, but sometimes their conversations just felt like a revision of the LEAVING PARADISE talk. Now Maggie and Caleb are forced to spend a four week trip together to talk about their experiences with drunk driving. Time to sort out their differences one could think, but to me it felt like Maggie and Caleb seem to be stuck in their old dialogues and actions. It’s not like in LEAVING PARADISE where they made progress by approaching the other. In RETURN TO PARADISE they are caught in a silly loop and unnecessary frictions, pushing the other away and letting him get close again. New about this part of their story is that they join four other teens on their trip. They are Matt, Erin, Trish and Lenny. These teens have stories of their own, that are definitely worth hearing. Thanks to them and their refreshing personalities RETURN TO PARADISE doesn’t feel like a total dragging read. My favourite character in this novel might be Lenny with his ridiculously funny actions and jokes. I didn’t really need a sequel after LEAVING PARADISE, but I’d already got it and so I made myself read it. There are some things that could have been solved faster. In the end I was content that the story came to a decent end. THE VERDICT RETURN TO PARADISE - A decent but unnecessary sequel. RETURN TO PARADISE promises more talk about the accident and its consequences, luckily with a few funny and fresh character cast additions.