ISBN-13: 9780738710181
Publisher: Flux, Llewellyn Publications
Published: 2007
303 pgs
Source: Library

Caleb Becker and Maggie Armstrong used to be friends and neighbours but an accident has changed everything. Now Maggie walks with a limp and Caleb was sent to a juvenile jail for drunk driving. This incident has left Maggie both physically and emotionally scarred, and though she could tolerate the pitiful stares she received in school, she is definitely not prepared to face Caleb in person now that he has been released from jail early for his community service duties.

However, this is not the only emotional baggage Maggie is carrying for she is still sadden over her parents' separation. She often wonders if her father is happy with his new life, and whether or not if he still cares about her. To complicate matters, she does not know if she should feel happy for her mother now that her boss is paying much more attention to her. Though Mr. Reynolds is a good man and she knew her mother deserved someone better like him, she could not help missing her father. However, she likes Mr. Reynolds' mother and when she offered to pay her for helping out at her house, she agreed. She enjoys working for Mrs. Reynolds and thinks she is a great woman but her happiness is a short-lived one after learning that Caleb is also helping Mrs. Reynolds to build a gazebo in her garden.

At the beginning, they do not feel comfortable working under the same roof but something changed over an incident and plus, Maggie felt she has learnt a lot from Mrs. Reynolds' advice and understand that sometimes it is easier to forgive than to bear a grudge against someone for the whole of your life.

On the other end, Caleb felt the tension in his family. He felt he could no longer communicate with his twin sister, Leah; not that he could blame her considering her friendship with Maggie is ruined after the accident. And their mother seems to rely heavily on medications due to the stress and added to his frustrations is his schoolmates' mockery towards Maggie.

I have to say reading Leaving Paradise is like riding on an emotional roller-coaster. One moment I was feeling sad for Maggie's unfortunate situation, and then the next I could be laughing along with Mrs. Reynolds because she is such a funny and open-minded person. And of course there are scenes that made me cry but I'd rather not say anything as that would spoil your fun of reading this book, isn't it?

I loved the plot and the characterisations, and on top of that I want to applaud Simone Elkeles for writing a powerful and thought-provoking story that revolves around a few delicate issues one might have to deal in real life. I like books that convey a message without being preachy and Leaving Paradise is one of those. In this story, I learned that forgiveness is not only about accepting others' mistakes but also about having the courage of letting go.

Unlike Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction, the romance between the two protagonists in Leaving Paradise is more complicated given the circumstances and the tension arises from it. I understand there is a sequel, Return to Paradise, come November (after checking Simone Elkeles' website) so this explains why there are some loose ends in the ending. All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book and I wish November will come quickly!

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4 Responses
  1. Iliana Says:

    I'm enjoying your recent reviews of YA books, Melody. I really like the sound of this one too and it does seem like it's probably got more depth to it considering the issues it brings up with guilt and consequences. I'll have to keep this one in mind!

  2. Heidenkind Says:

    I just bought this book at the store a few days ago. Simone Elkeles is really turning into one of my favorite authors, so I have high hopes for this one.

  3. Melody Says:

    Iliana - Yes, it does seems I've been reading lots of YA books lately and I've the library to thank for, LOL. I'm glad you're keeping this one in mind. :)

    Tasha - I love Simone Elkeles' books! I can't wait for her next book to release! Hope you'll enjoy this book as much as I did!

  4. Darlene Says:

    This book sounds really great - something I would like. I really enjoy YA books but I never know what to pick. I'm adding this to my wishlist.

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