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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Leaving Paradise

No, I’m not talking about leaving the blog. I’m chatting about how much I enjoyed reading Leaving Paradise  and how Leaving Paradiseexcitedly I’m waiting for the sequel, Return to Paradise,  to come out September 1st. Simone Elkeles (also author of Rules of Attraction, Perfect Chemistry, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation, and How to Ruin My Teenage Life) wrote Leaving Paradise in 2007. I was reading an 8th edition printed in 2010 by Flux.

Flux is an imprint dedicated to teen fiction with titles like Indigo Blues, Other (on my list to get my hands on!) and a 40th anniversary edition of John Donovan’s I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip. They’ve got some great stuff for teens and young adults. My urban eighth graders are going to love these titles.

SLJ wrote about Leaving Paradise “Elkeles writes convincingly about family tensions, retreating from painful reality, and teens outgrowing their old skins.” 

The publisher’s blurb states: 

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.

I’m telling you when I sat down to read Leaving Paradise, I was expecting a maudlin, sappy story about a poor pitiful victim and her tough attacker.  Not! This was a gripping frustrating story with characters that change, develop, and grow, battling society in a typical teenage manner, not in some grown-up fantasy way. It held enough romance, drama, and realistic teen issues to satisfy my very demanding students. The ending left me frustrated, hopeful, and committed to reading the sequel. This is one book that I’m glad I didn’t read too soon before the sequel will be released.