(Leaving Paradise #1)
by Simone Elkeles
Publication Date: April 8, 2007
Genre: Young Adult
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.
Okay, so the quick of it is, Caleb went to juvie for a hit and run when he was drunk driving and hit Maggie, his sister’s best friend. After a year of being in juvie, he’s let out on parole and has to complete the remainder of his time via community service. When he gets home he realizes that everything’s changed within the year he was locked up. Not only has his views on life changed, but his happy, bubbly sister is now full on goth, his mom pops pills, his dad’s in complete denial and does everything he can to make his wife happy, and Maggie, well she’s terrified of him. That doesn’t even encompass his ex-girlfriend, his old circle of friends, or all of the townspeople who know what he did. Caleb thought getting out of juvie would make him feel free again but instead he feels even more locked up. Things only get more complicated when his community service leads him to Mrs. Reynolds house. The same Mrs. Reynolds who Maggie is a companion for.
I can’t believe I’ve had this book on my kindle for YEARS and I’m just now getting to it. While there isn’t much that goes on that you don’t already suspect, I was enjoying every minute of it. I mean, even though Caleb was convicted of doing a horrible thing, he’s paid his dues and just wanted to move on with his life. He tries to reach out to Maggie even though he’s prohibited to do so. Then when they start working together they rebuild their friendship. Obviously it takes some time because Maggie hasn’t fully forgiven him for what he did to her. After all, she went from being a tennis player who was going to Spain on a full athletic scholarship, to a girl who’s looked upon as a freak because the accident jacked up her leg so bad that not only does it have more metal than bone in it, but she walks with a very predominant limp. Oh, and she went from being a popular girl in school to a pariah. So yeah, it takes Maggie a while to warm up to Caleb but with the help of a meddling Mrs. Reynolds, they form an even stronger bond than they had before the accident.
There are a few things left untied at the end of this story. I don’t know if they are answered in the next book or if you’re just supposed to move on from it. Also, I LOVED the ending of this. I thought it was brilliant and was really happy with the way the author ended things. Except, when I went to type up my review I realized that this is the first book in a duology and there’s a second book that ties everything up in a pretty pink bow… and now I’m sad. I thought this story was great the way it was. I liked the way things ended and while I felt like some things that took place needed to be brushed up on, I don’t want another book. I don’t want everything to end like it does in a Disney movie. So, with that being said, I do not plan to read the next book. I thought this ending was great and should be left the way it is in my memory.
“How I wish I could rewind the past year and start over. Life doesn’t let you do that. You can’t erase the past, but I’m going to try and make other people forget it.”