Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles

2.5 Stars (Contemporary YA)

Unfortunately the follow up book to Elkeles's Leaving Paradise wasn't nearly as enjoyable as the first book. Return to Paradise starts off in with Caleb getting busted for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and his former parole officer Damon steps in to make sure Caleb isn't sent back to prison. Caleb is forced to join the RE-START team, basically a group of teens hurt by drunk driving who go from school to school relating their stories to discourage any other teens from following in their footsteps. Of course, Caleb is reunited with Maggie who volunteered for the program. Neither is aware the other will be there so of course drama ensues as they deal with unresolved emotions and untold secrets.

What could have been a great read that would have resolved many things for readers and lovers of the first book felt, so rushed and amateurish in terms of the overall flow and pacing of the story. From the beginning it felt like Elkeles had been forced to write this book within a short time frame and didn't bother to put in the necessary effort she had with her other books to make it something great. The overall flow of the story moved way too quickly, with emotions and issues being brought up and then quickly addressed only to be unrealistically resolved.

Nothing between Caleb and Maggie seemed all that realistic, their emotions and desires and personal drives were all over the place, flipping from one thought to the next in every other chapters. None of their thought processes were consistent where the other was concerned. At once they wanted each other but then didn't, and then did again, but couldn't and then pushed each other away but still wanted each other. It was sort of annoying.

The book read really quickly, mostly because the dialogue was rushed, scenes flipped through and verging on cliche in some moments. What could have been a great story, meaty and worth reading ended up being a quick recap of events from the previous book with a whole lots of unnecessary drama thrown in to ultimately give the reader the satisfying ending they may not have felt they got with book 1.

I can't say I loved the book, but it read quickly and gave Maggie and Caleb's story the resolution it deserved.

Maggie had her annoying moments, Caleb was confused and inconsistent a lot of the time, the writing seemed like something a debut novelist who didn't know much about her writing style would put out, if only hit the YA motherload of angst and forbidden love. I'm not sure I'd necessarily recommend this book, but if you've read book one maybe you'd want to read this if only to see how Maggie and Caleb end up.

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