Review Detail

 
Young Adult Fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
0.0
Writing Style 
 
0.0

You can't go home again

A year ago, a senseless accident maimed Maggie and sent Caleb to juvenile detention. The last thing in the world they were expecting was that the other would turn out to be the one person who understood what they'd gone through. Maggie and Caleb have both changed, but together, they just might manage to get their lives back on track--unless the shocking truth finally comes out and tears them apart again.

Leaving Paradise alternates chapters narrated by Maggie with chapters narrated by Caleb, with a slightly uneven result; the two narrations sometimes overlap, one picking up where the other left off, telling the same event from both perspectives, but sometimes there's a lapse of a few days between chapters, with nothing to signal the difference. It's possible that the entire story could have been told equally effectively from just one of their points of view, or by an omniscient third-person narrator including the characters' interior monologue--but in the end, regardless of its narrative structure, this book is an absolute page-turner.

At first, the idea that these two characters would be drawn to each other so strongly seems farfetched, but as their history is gradually explained, the premise becomes more believable. The characters of Maggie and Caleb as they are now are fairly complete--and it's a good thing there were so many scenes where each one interacted independently with others, preventing them from becoming one-note characters. But readers might have trouble imagining how they were before the accident, especially Caleb, whose (self-admitted) characterization as a selfish jerk doesn't quite jive with the specific examples of his actions, which on the contrary, paint him as very sympathetic. It's obvious that each of the supporting characters plays a particular role in Maggie and Caleb's journey, but despite the fact that they're functional to the plot, they're also delightful and touching.

With two important pieces of information revealed at exactly the right time (at approximately the 1/3 and 2/3 marks of the book), readers will constantly be on their toes, reevaluating everything they thought they knew about the characters and the fatal night of the accident. With its original premise, engaging characters and stunning twist, Leaving Paradise is another winner from How to Ruin a Summer Vacation author Simone Elkeles.

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