By: Aimme Lopez
Simone Elkeles has touched many romantic teenage girls with her latest series “Leaving Paradise.” Everyone is aware on how drunk driving can affect one’s life, but no one really knows how it can affect one’s family.
Elkeles has managed to capture the real emotions that are born in teenager’s hearts. Creating a real-life romantic situation. Elkeles has a very interesting type of romantic style and ideas. Unlike Nicholas Sparks, whose love stories are more, well, suited for adult readers who have already experienced their love stories, Elkeles writes teenage love stories that seem so real for the young adult readers.
With “Leaving Paradise” the book focuses on two teenagers whose fate was drastically changed with a drunk driving incident. It was a tragic night, Maggie Armstrong told Caleb Becker, her childhood friend who she loved so dearly, that his girlfriend Kendra Greene was cheating on him with his best friend Brian. A drunken, mad Caleb left Maggie and got in the car. Not knowing what he was doing Caleb hit Maggie and left her without checking her. Maggie then suffers many months of physical therapy and is condemned to never walk properly and limp.
Maggie Armstrong is tired of the stares she’s been getting for the past month. Everyone either looks at her with pity or disgust, all because of her disability. Maggie has made the decision in putting every effort in going to a study abroad program in Spain. But then, as the book progresses, Maggie has to face some drastic obstacles that have changed her fate completely.
Maggie becomes is a great inspiration to every victim of drunk driving. She could have chosen the path of being stuck in the past and live with hatred. But instead she made a goal to herself to leave Paradise and to leave her past behind. Elkeles describes Maggie as a real teen. Her feelings and emotions are straightforward. Elkeles manages to write how Maggie slowly changes her heart and makes Maggie face her real feelings towards Caleb.
After being locked away in Juvenile Jail because of crashing into Maggie while driving intoxicated, Caleb is now released and has to go back home with his picture perfect family who is hiding deep dark secrets. Caleb, wanting to ignore the stares due to his “Ex-Con” label, desperately tries to find a comfort.
Caleb is a rebel without a cause. Elkeles makes Caleb a type of character that one wants to keep reading about. His brute personality is exciting, that you can actually picture a guy like that. The secret that is tearing Caleb apart is teeth-clenching horrifying. Caleb is a realistic character that its’ almost impossible to not fall in love with him. Caleb will capture the reader’s heart within the tenth paragraph. Elkeles created a character that is even more to die for than Edward Cullen, by Stephanie Meyer. Caleb is real and has real problems to face because of his feelings. He doesn’t overcome his love obstacle by biting Maggie and living happily ever after.
The only thing Maggie and Caleb have in common is their past. Because of their past, their obligation is to hate each other and never fall in love with each other. But as time passes and both Maggie and Caleb feel trapped in their lives, they will find the comfort and love they have been desperately trying to find.
For the young readers ears, if the readers want to read a love story that has no real connection to your actual love life, then go ahead and read fictional love novels that make the reader love something that isn’t real. But for the readers that want a realistic love story, that actually teach life lessons of love and how to fight for it (as a normal human being) then “Leaving Paradise” is their type of book.
“Leaving Paradise” has forbidden romance, drama, and all the emotions are strong and non-complicated. But in the end you will find out the secret Caleb has promised to keep until he dies. This book is guaranteed to have girls screaming and crying in the middle of the class. You can go ahead and buy “Leaving Paradise” at Barnes and Noble; prices vary from paperback and hardcover. Or check it out at Bel Air library.
One final bit of advice, do not read the second book, “Return to Paradise”, before “Leaving Paradise” or else one will not be able to grasp the history of both Caleb and Maggie and truly appreciate how their relationship turns out in the end.