As if living next door to the person who maimed you in a drunk driving accident wasn't awkward enough. Now a year after the said incident which severely injured Maggie Armstrong and sent Caleb Becker to prison, things couldn't be more unsettled here in Paradise (,Illinois) as Caleb is released back into society, back home (still next door to Maggie's house) and back to a life now permanently altered by one ill-fated decision.
In light of the "incident", other issues add to the drama. There's the fact that the once inseparable Armstrongs and Beckers haven't spoken in a year, that Caleb's twin sister Leah used to be Maggie's best friend, that both are starting their senior year of high school (having been in the same grade since kindergarten), that Maggie's dad has now left she and her mom, that Maggie's now unable to play tennis/get a scholarship/get the-heck-outta-here, that Caleb's girlfriend Kendra cheated on him while he was locked-up and basically all the constant, unwanted attention which comes from being the hottest gossip in a small town. The real issue though is the relationship between Caleb and Maggie; the terms of where their lifelong friendship now stands and how the rest of their lives will play out. If anything can be got right, each must confront the other knowing full well that the present is all there is--the past is permanent and assumptions about the future are dubious at best.
Elkeles, in her follow-up to debut How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, doles out some serious seriousness in this weighted story of tragedy, scandal, disability, broken trust, relationships, expectations, loyalty and redemption. Though the circumstances seem a little manipulated, the author renders some genuine authenticity through the dual narrative--alternating chapters with Caleb and Maggie in the first-person--and manages to create a sincere atmosphere out of a complex set of characteristics and background details.