Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles
Maggie and Caleb have been next door neighbors forever in their small town of Paradise. Maggie’s best friend was Caleb’s twin sister Leah. They are both returning to school at the beginning of the year after being away a year: Maggie was in the hospital and having multiple surgeries on her legs, and Caleb was in juvenile prison for driving drunk and hit and run in the accident that injured Maggie. Each of them has become a loner, awkward with their friends. None of the other students know how to act around them, especially since they are both back at school. Unable to be the tennis star she was before the accident, Maggie doesn’t know how to fit in any more. Caleb’s old girlfriend doesn’t want anyone to see them together, since her father is running for an office, but wants to keep their relationship going in secret. Maggie gets a job as a companion for her mother’s boss’ mother, wanting to earn enough money to leave town. When Caleb is placed with the same woman as part of his community service sentence, they have to figure out how to get along with each other. I grew to really care about both of these characters; I wanted both of them to make the choices that were right for each of them. I had no hint of the surprise that came near the end. Although the ending was unsettling , I would very much recommend this book to all teen readers, especially fans of Simone Elkeles.
Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson