Return to Paradise Review

Monday, November 8, 2010


Maggie and Caleb just went through the worst year of their lives. Hit by a car and starting life over with a limp, Maggie never thought she would forgive Caleb. But she did—and fell in love. What they shared was real. But Caleb wanted to be free from the past—and a terrible secret: he wasn't the one who hit Maggie. So he left Paradise—and Maggie—forever. When Maggie and Caleb run into each other in a different town, they can't deny their true feelings. Will Maggie let Caleb get away again? Or will Caleb face the truth and return to Paradise?
Taken from GoodReads.

Return to Paradise is the second half of Maggie and Caleb's journey. They hated each other, found each other, loved each other, and lost each other, all in one year. Now the circumstances are different, and in a new town and place, Caleb and Maggie have found each other again. Only this time, Caleb has gotten himself into a new mess of trouble, and Maggie has found her confidence - and her voice. Are they brave and strong enough to weather their mutual struggles and learn to live with and love each other again?

I read Return to Paradise in about five hours straight, much like I did with Leaving Paradise, but I have to say that I don't feel as satisfied with this installment as I did with the first. That's not to say that the writing of Return to Paradise is any less emotional or exceptional as before, but I'm going to be honest. Simone Elkeles is an amazing author with the unique ability to paint a story with environments and characters that are tangible, true to humanity, and relevant. That said, I almost think the story was better left with the inconclusive story line of Leaving Paradise. Ever hear that statement, less is more? In my humble and brutally honest opinion, sometimes I think authors need to remember that.

I'll start with the strengths of Return to Paradise. Written in alternating POVs, I can honestly say that this book holds true to the character voices developed in book one. Caleb and Maggie are easily distinguished, and their own voices make it easier to relate to them. I have to be honest though, while I enjoyed the character development for Maggie - she was stronger, braver, and more assertive - I felt that this was almost the same journey as we watched them go through before. The same questions were posed in my mind...do they love each other? Will their love overcome obstacles? Will the truth come out after all? That, I felt, was a little tedious. Delving into some of the minor characters from the last book definitely helped the book along though.

I think that Return to Paradise is a good book, don't get me wrong, but I don't think I absolutely had to read it. I almost prefer how it played out in my head. Either way, it's a strong read with a great voice and cast of characters. I'll give it a 4 out of 5, and I'd recommend this to fans of YA, contemporary fiction, and those who loved Leaving Paradise.

24 comments:

  1. I haven't read the first book in this series but I've heard it's fantastic. I agree with you on less is more, and sometimes the first book in a series is so great the others just can't live up to it. Lovely review Melissa, you pointed out some things that bothered you while still making me want to read it!

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  2. I just finished Rules of Attraction and I loved it! I can't wait to read Leaving and Return. Simone Elkeles is an amazing writer.

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  3. The only book I've read by Simone Elkeles is Rules of Attraction. I definitely need to read Leaving Paradise, when I do I'll have to keep in mind the sequel. I agree that sometimes less is more. Great review.

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  4. Very well thought out review. =) I am definitely looking forward to reading this one, but I can understand where you're coming from. I have a feeling I will enjoy the book anyway, but it definitely is a bit frustrating to read sequels that aren't really necessary.

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  5. I like the sound of it, but I think if I really want to try something of this author I probably try the first one! But still a nice book to read. Great review, Melissa!

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  6. I so agree with you. I'm still working on finishing this one but I would have been fine had Leaving Paradise ended as it did in the first book. I love having the characters back but it doesn't feel the same. :/

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  7. I loved Leaving Paradise and I'm really looking forward to reading this one. I usually don't think that sequels are as good as originals but I'm glad to know it's still worth reading.

    XOXO~ Renee

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  8. I've never read either of these titles, although I've been meaning to for a while. I completely agree with you - less is definitely more in some circumstances. Great review - I'll have to pick this one up soon to see what it's all about. :)

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  9. I haven't read the first book. This sounds interesting. I may have to pick up this series. Thanks for the review.

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  10. I liked the first book, but don't think I need more of that story.

    btw: your new template looks great!

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  11. I really appreciate this view! I really enjoyed the first, though it's a great point: Not every book needs a sequel. Sometimes it IS more fun to imagine what happens next. Which reminds me...I have to Tweet something to you STAT...

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  12. I know what you mean about "had to read it". I just read something that left me with a similar feeling.

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  13. This one is still going strong. Good to know. But if I will read that first one or not is the question

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  14. I have not read either of these books, but I have read sequels that I felt as you did that the inconclusive ending was better than than writing another book. Still it sounds like the characters are worth the read. Great review!

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  15. I have not read either of these books but I do enjoy your reviews. You have this knack of saying what needs to be said in a way that does not beat around the bush or the gardens!

    Bravo.

    Mad Scientist
    http://madsteampunkery.blogspot.com/

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  16. How silly of me... I forgot to mention how I adore your little make over. It is simple and fresh. How lovely it must feel to have such a simple change?

    A pleasant night,

    Mad Scientist
    http://madsteampunkery.blogspot.com/

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  17. I had the same reaction to this one.

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  18. Sad to admit but I only have time for books that give you the "I have to read this without stopping to eat or pee and will barely breathe" feeling... Sounds like this one fits the bill!

    Kelli calls me a Book Snob... I think I am going to make a shirt and parade it around :)

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  19. If you can believe it, I am new to this series. I sounds good. Thanks for the honest review.

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  20. gosh, i really need to start reading her books!! thanks for the great and honest review!

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  21. I feel ashamed to admit that I haven't read ANY of Simone Elkeles' books. But they look really great. Thanks for the honest and balanced review of this one -- I totally agree with you, sometimes less is more and a series can feel like it's stretching the plot thin.

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  22. Melissa---loving the new layout! I totally understand that sometimes how things play out in your head is better than the book ending. That's how I felt about Mockingjay. I have not read this author before, but plan to, someday. Thanks for the great review!

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  23. I still need to read this series! Great review!

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  24. I didn't read your review because I have yet to read the first one, but I just added both to my TBR and hope to pick up Leaving Paradise soon.

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