Target Audience: Teens/Young Adults
***Contains Some Spoilers***
I'm probably going to struggle with writing this review, probably because it was such a good book and i always find my favourite books harder to describe in words.
In summary, Leaving Paradise is a love story between a girl called Maggie and a guy called Caleb. The simplicity of your average love story ends there though. The twist? Caleb has spent the last year in juvenile detention for hitting Maggie with a car and leaving her in the road.
Now to most people (myself included) you'd probably be thinking how on earth do those two end up having a relationship and how does the author manage to have this happen without it seeming really unbelievable.
The answer? She just does, and it's hard to explain how unless you read it for yourself.
Their relationship changes slowly at first and more of their intertwined pasts are revealed as they once again start getting to know one another better. By the time comes that Maggie and Caleb are talking properly again, you can understand how they got there, and i found their relationship believable and understandable.
To me, it made sense in a strange yet beautiful way. If there's one thing a person who isn't understood wants, it's to be understood. In this case, the best person to understand what Caleb and Maggie are going through are each other, however painful it may be for them to admit at first.
This book isn't depressing, as i originally thought it might be. In fact it's rather uplifting, in a sense that's hard to describe. To me it was the fact that both Caleb and Maggie were so low and then to climb back up and become strong, was perhaps the most inspiring thing i've ever read about in a novel.
The romance is well written too. Caleb and Maggie's complicated emotions are expressed with amazing clarity and their romance is, dare i say it, one of the most beautiful and meaningful i've read about in a long time. A lot of people like romances because of graphic sex or love scenes, and as much as i read those as well, to me i love the emotional side that little bit more. So for that alone, i found this one of the most believable romances i've read in a long time.
With regards to other characters in the book, i thought each and everyone had their role to play. There wasn't even one character that to me felt like they were pointless filler. I especially loved Mrs Reynolds and i was heartbroken at the end. She taught Maggie so much about life and brought two people together who probably could have hated one another forever.
Kendra, Caleb's Ex, is truly the 'bitch' of the novel and as much as i hated her, i have to admit even she played a role, if just to make Caleb and Maggie realise how strong they are in comparison. One of the best lines that came from Maggie was the one when she described Kendra as an 'empty shell' and that, to me, pretty much perfectly summed up the definition of popularity.
Leah was also another standout individual, and i found it interesting to see how she handled keeping the secret she had been keeping for so long, considering the consequences it had on so many people's lives.
I could go on and on forever, but i don't want to give too much away. Needless to say it was a stunningly romantic read, with some heartstopping twists that will have you gaping at the pages and some very important moral messages, that i feel, make this a must read for anyone who loves romance and likes reading a truly exceptional story of friendship, loss and loyalty.
I will definately be reading the sequel when it's released!