Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
This is essentially a story about forgiveness. Could you ever really completely forgive someone who harmed you? Caleb has spent the last year locked up in prison paying for one piece of bad judgement which ended in his neighbour and his sister's best friend being maimed for life.
Maggie is terrified of Caleb and what she thinks she remembers from the accident. He's the reason she can't walk properly, can't play tennis and has lost all her friends. He's also the reason why they all call her a freak. But as Caleb is released from prison and Maggie returns to school, they are constantly thrown together - particularly by the old lady they are both working for.
Caleb's family are falling apart, Maggie is racked with guilt by how much her therapy is costing her single mother and they gradually realise the only person who they can find solace with is the one person they shouldn't.
The concept of this book I found to be realistic and the progression of Maggie and Caleb's relationship to be natural. My one gripe with the book is that Simone Elkeles always seemed to have the boy leaving in order to 'save' the girl just as he's realised he's in love with her.
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