By: Nevra Azerkan
Rating: [The Breakdown]
Leaving Paradise at a first glance is about an unlikely love story. The story begins with Caleb Becker who has been at a juvenile detention facility for almost a year and is released early for good behavior. He landed there after being convicted of a hit and run which caused the victim, Maggie Armstrong, to be in and out of surgery followed by ongoing physical therapy sessions. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, it gets better when we learn that Maggie was Caleb’s neighbor and his twin sister’s best friend. Oh yes, the tangled web we weave. When Maggie finds out Caleb is released early, the trauma from that night floods back instantly. They hope to avoid each other, but as luck would have it they both become employed by the same sassy elderly lady who will teach them many of life’s lessons.
Leaving Paradise is not only a great dramatic story, but it really puts into focus what matters in life. Caleb and Maggie grow as respectable young adults through a tragedy that they shared together. When they have no one else to turn to they find themselves opening up to each other. I loved the addition of the elderly woman they work for, Mrs. Reynolds. She adds spunk and wisdom to a story that needs any uplifting moments that can be spared.
Simone Elkeles alternates between Caleb’s and Maggie’s perspective with each chapter. I think this works extremely well for this book because with everything going on, you don’t want to miss what the two main characters are thinking and feeling and you don’t. The characters are full of depth and you are completely in tune with what they have been through and how they eventually evolve. You side with one character at first, but after hearing the other story you become sympathetic for both of them.
Leaving Paradise is about doing the right thing; whether it’s forgiving an enemy, helping a friend in need, making someone happy or protecting a loved one. Finding out how matters are resolved in the end is what makes you eager to finish the last chapter of this novel. However, in this case the ending is left open for a sequel, so you are left hanging and anxiously awaiting the next book.