Yes, it's time, my long-promised review of LEAVING PARADISE by Simone Elkeles. I read this book a few weeks ago and I have to tell you: I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. The story itself is simple: two people, bonded together by a tragedy, shunned by the rest of the world, who turn to each other.
The execution is anything but simple. Caleb and Maggie are both complex, real people who you in-turn, love and get infuriated at. They are people, not characters. This events are something that can actually happen, not just story. The ending is satisfying, a real ending, not a contrived, happy one. I feel like I can pick up the paper and read about an incident like this today, that's how real this story is.
Maggie's good-girl and Caleb's bad-boy personalties are an immediate catalyst for a lot of great conflict, misunderstandings and of course, excellent chemistry. I can see this becoming a movie...it has that kind of lasting visual impressions.
Maggie's hopes and dreams of leaving Paradise behind and Caleb's hopes of a "normal" life with his family, girlfriend and "the guys" are dashed quickly in the story. You realize that these people don't have anyone who understands them. Their story together is haunting and devastating and you feel your heart break for these two teenagers who have looked things in the eye that most adults would have a hard time with.
I loved the alternatiing points of view...one chapter I hated Caleb and felt so sorry for Maggie, the next chapter I HATED Kendra and felt sorry for Caleb...my emotions were in a turmoil throughout this story. Like all great books, i read this in one sitting and all I have to say is: WELL DONE Ms. Elkeles. This is not your standard fluffy HS adventure. This is what happens when HS goes wrong, leaving behind repurcussions that last a lifetime.
I read this book and Jodi Picoult's NINETEEN MINUTES around the same time. The themes are similar...when ordinary people go very wrong. I loved both...and I will not call Simone, the Jodi Picoult of YA.
Thanks for the great read Simone. I hope we see Maggie and Caleb again one day :)
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