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.
While I think you could read this book on its own, I don’t think there’s any point in doing so without reading Leaving Paradise first. A follow-up to the open-ended drama of the excellent first book, this was a reread for me, and enough time had passed since my first time reading it that a lot of it felt brand new again.
WARNING: I am going to spoil the first book here, so if you’re interested in the series, you’d better not read the rest! Otherwise go back to my review of book one.
In the first book we see Caleb and Maggie return to school after a year away. Maggie has been in the hospital and in recovery after a serious accident where she was hit by a drunken driver. She is permanently injured by the crash. Caleb has been in prison for being that driver.
Only, it wasn’t Caleb who was driving the car – something we find out towards the end of the book. He took the blame to protect his twin sister (and Maggie’s former best friend) who was behind the wheel that night.
After being rejected by everyone, Caleb skipped town, and we pick up with him eight months later, arrested again for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In order to stay out of prison – and this time it would be full-on adult prison, not juvenile detention – the man working on his case offers him the chance to travel with a group of young people on a tour to talk to kids about the consequences of dangerous driving.
Maggie also happens to be part of this group, and this is where the real drama starts.
Some of the things that were left open-ended in book one are resolved here. The truth about Caleb finally comes out, just as it should. Maggie is NOT happy that Caleb took off on her not long after they became a couple, and it takes time for them to work through their issues.
Author Simone Elkeles knows how to write teen drama. She’s fantastic at it. As an adult reading her work it has an addictive quality, and I can only imagine how much teenaged me would have enjoyed these books.
While it is not as solid a read as book one, Return to Paradise is satisfying in a different way: we finally get justice for characters affected by things beyond their control.
Read these two as a pair.