Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Caleb Becker and Maggie Armstrong grew up together. They're next door neighbors and Maggie was his twin sister Leah's, best friend, they hung out a lot of the time. But then one night changed everything. Caleb got behind the wheel drunk when leaving a party. He lost control and hit Maggie. Worse, he drove away from the scene without stopping.

Caleb's spent most of the last year in juvie for the hit and run. Now he's out and he wants to prove their hometown, Paradise, still can be home.

Maggie has spent most of the year in hospital and physical therapy, relearning how to walk and planning her escape from Paradise before Caleb's release.

But then Caleb's released early and suddenly they have to face each other again. To deal with the aftermath of the hit and run, the effect it's had on their families and friends as well as themselves.

I completely love this book. I picked it up and didn't put it down until 3 and a half hours later, when I finished it. I thought Simone's book 'Perfect Chemistry' was great, but this was better. It blew me away. It's fairly predictable, you can figure out what's going to happen pretty easily, but it just doesn't matter. This is a heartfelt story where the characters are very real. It's told in first person switching smoothly every chapter between Caleb and Maggie, so you know and feel the full confusion of all the emotions they're going through. They're both very easy characters to relate to and empathise with as they work through their problems and issues. The side characters are well drawn as well, and I couldn't help loving Mrs. Reynolds (Maggie's employer), she is fantastic.

This book is angst heavy, and pulls no punches, but there are some really sweet lighter moments as well. But more than that, it's a story of hope, self belief and the power of forgiveness and acceptance. The ending was painful, but brilliant leaving me close to tears. I am very glad that I knew there was going to be a second book before I read this one, I just wish it wasn't so long to wait for it. I can not wait for 'Return to Paradise', the continuation of Caleb and Maggie's story. This book is a must read in my view. Amazing. 10/10

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