Back in March I read a book called “Leaving Paradise” and it was fantastic. I raved about it, and (if I remember correctly) told all of you to run right out and buy it. There was something so emotional, and real about it that it left me breathless, so when I received an ARC copy of its follow-up novel “Return to Paradise” I was like a kid in a candy store. I jumped, I squealed, and then I stayed up until ungodly hours reading it.
I wish I hadn’t.
“Caleb Becker left Paradise eight months ago, taking with him the secret he promised to take to his grave. If the truth got out, it would ruin everything.
Maggie Armstrong tried to be strong after Caleb broke her heart and disappeared. Somehow, she managed to move on. She’s determined to make a new life for herself.
But then Caleb and Maggie are forced together on a summer trip. They try ignoring their passion for each other, but buried feelings resurface. Caleb must face the truth about the night of Maggie’s accident, or the secret that destroyed their relationship will forever stand between them.”
I have been let down by books before, (even books by Simone Elkeles) but for some reason this felt much more personal to me. I fell in love with Caleb and Maggie’s story in LP, I held my breath in anticipation of their future, I felt their emotional acceptance, I even cried for them, but somehow in “Return to Paradise” all of that was lost. The character development, and intensity that was so carefully crafted seemed to disappear completely, and was replaced by (somewhat) forced dialogue, and awkward personal interaction.
The lessons in RTP (which are absolution and acceptance) were cleverly disguised as a “Re-Start” youth program, and allowed Elkeles to expand her cast, but even with witty new characters, and chapters of angst, everything just felt dry and redundant. For a woman that has (not only) made her mark in the YA community, but kicked mounds of sand over everyone elses’, to say I was disappointed would be like saying “spiders are icky”… grossly understated. I was completely deflated.
Read it if you must, but my advice (and I really hate saying this) retain your reading high from “Leaving Paradise” and write off the rest.
Oh… and (just because I have no self control) What the hell is up with the cover art? Really? Did we have to go with the extra slice of cheese?
Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: Sometimes even the best book can be broken.
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(On a side note: I know some of y’all are probably wondering where the 3 is coming from after such a harsh review, so let me explain. Regardless of its inability to live up to it’s predecessor, RTP did have a few outstanding moments in it, and at the end of the day… I still love Caleb and Maggie, and giving their story anything less than a 3 felt sorta sinful. If you are now confused I humbly apologize, this was not my intention, but so goes the game of a bi-polar reviewer.)