Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Simone Elkeles, Leaving Paradise

Publisher: Flux
Pub date: April 1, 2007
Reading level: Young Adult
Page count: 312 pages

I went to the library in search of The Rules of Attraction, Simone Elkeles' sequel to my beloved Perfect Chemistry (to read my review of that book, click here) - but they didn't have it, so I checked out this one instead. Now, I adore Ms. Elkeles. Perfect Chemistry is one of my favorite reads so far this year. So it pains me to say that I was not impressed with Leaving Paradise.

Basically, the main problem was the entire premise of the book. Maggie is a formerly popular girl turned pariah after she gets run over by a drunk driver and develops a limp. That's right. She was really popular and loved by all. Then she suffers a horrible accident, and almost overnight, people turn on her and start making fun of her for her limp. Seriously? This just did not seem realistic. I know high school can be cruel, but somehow I don't think even the meanest mean girls would turn against their former friend because she had the misfortune to be run over. The whole idea was just kind of ridiculous and unbelievable.

Caleb is the formerly popular wrestler champion, boyfriend of the cheerleader captain, etc., who was charged with the hit & run that left poor Maggie in a wheelchair for 6 months, and who went to juvenile prison for a year as a result. I think it will come as a surprise to no one when Caleb, who previously never spared a second glance at his next door neighbor Maggie, suddenly finds her irresistible upon his release from juvie, despite her limp and ugly scars.

Caleb defends his Beloved admirably when the high school meanies tease her about her limp and the long skirts she wears to cover her scars; he wipes her tears away when she has a bad day; he condescends to give her her first real kiss, etc., etc., etc. It's all terribly sweet...and, I'm sorry to say, terribly boring at times too, not to mention sappy. There was a disturbing Walk to Remember quality to this book which was most happily missing from Perfect Chemistry. Super sexy popular badass boy falls for nerdy, long-skirt wearing, awkward girl. Their love is so pure and trueeeeeeeee. Gag.

I wasn't buying it. The chemistry seemed forced, and, as I've said, the entire premise was unrealistic. I will not be bothering with the sequel, Return to Paradise. But I am still going to give Rules of Attraction a chance, because I know what Ms. Elkeles is capable of.

2 stars

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