Friday, October 8, 2010

Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1) by Simone Elkeles

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.

Everyone has had it drilled in their heads practically from grade school and up that you shouldn't drink and drive. We all hear about the horrible things that can happen and the lives that can be ruined, but being introduced to Maggie in this novel, who was recently hit by a drunk driver still struck a cord with me. Hearing her voice through the pages describing her pain and suffering was heart wrenching. Her life was irrevocably changed after that awful night, but hers wasn't the only one.

Caleb may not have been the obvious victim but he still paid a high price as the result of the hit and run. Spending a year in juvenile jail isn't for the light hearted for sure. But he's served his time, survived the year, and now he's out and he's not exactly being welcomed back with open arms. His family is putting up a "perfect family" front for their home town, his sister has changed completely, his friends either don't know how to act around him or they think the situation is something they can joke about or laugh off. Well, Caleb isn't laughing. The worst though I think is the guilt at having to face Maggie. A friend once upon a time before that awful night, who now can't even stand to be around him. Not that's Caleb's anxious for their reunion anymore than she is.

So when they're thrown together for work, both need the community service hours and money so badly that they have no choice but to put up with each other. And boy oh boy do they have quite a time at it. I didn't expect the romance and feelings that developed between the two, but I loved it. They had a story just like couples like Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet who cared for each other maybe against better judgement and the voices of reason around them, but didn't let that stop them. The ending did leave me sad and devastated for both Maggie and Caleb all over again but it also felt very realistic in my opinion. I'm hoping Elkeles plans to write more stories with characters as deep and rich as these two.

I gave Leaving Paradise 3 shamrocks!!!

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