Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Leaving Paradise

Title: Leaving Paradise 

Author: Simone Elkeles 

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars 

Part of a Series?: First in series 

Goodreads Summary:
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. 

 As far as chicklit goes, this is pretty good but I've read better. Overall, the general problems I have from chicklit apply to this book to; there is an excess of angst, forced plot twists, cookie-cutter stereotypes, etc., etc., etc.

First off, I think that Elkeles needed to focus a little more her originality. Maggie and Caleb get put together in these really cliché scenarios, like coincidentally working together for Mrs. Reynolds. Also, their respective backstories just are so...depressing. 99% of Americans DO NOT have family problems like Maggie and Caleb. But that's really the problem I have with most chicklit. All the characters, in order to give them a little more depth, try to have "unique" backgrounds like the divorced-single-parent-with-a-husband-who-doesn't-keep-in-touch story line or the perfect-family-that-really-isn't-so-perfect-on-the-inside.

Also, the progression in general was too fast. Maggie and Caleb got chummy very quickly, and everything after that happened too quickly. I wish that Elkeles had taken her time with developing the story. Maggie and Caleb had a few hot encounters and then suddenly were best friends. And I don't really think that Elkeles hinted very well at what really happened the night of the accident either. I know the book isn't supposed to be a mystery novel, but I think the truth that Leah was the one who ran over was revealed too suddenly. Then the ending rolled around, and I just wanted to hold up my hands and say, "STOP ONE SECOND! SLOW DOWN!" I wished Elkeles had made the book 100 pages would've really helped.

I did like the story. It was cute. But in general, it was an average read...meh.


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