What You Left Behind (ARC review)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Title: What You Left Behind
Author: Jessica Verdi
Release Date: August, 4, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Source: NetGalley
“It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead, he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions, and Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?”

My Review

Where to begin? There are so many issues running though this book: The loss of a loved one, teen pregnancy, what does it mean to be a father? I could go on.Yet all of these issues weave in and out of the story and never feel like too much. 

Firstly, the character of Ryden Brooks, was refreshing, realistic, and heartbreaking. It has been awhile since I have read a good book with an excellent male point of view. From the first page you get who Ryden is and you begin to root for him. He is a popular jock, yet loves reading. He wants to be a good dad to his daughter, Hope, friend, and son, yet often does the opposite of what he knows he should. Ryden is seventeen and in addition to being a new single father, he's still grieving over the loss of his girlfriend, Meg, who he also feels like he caused her death by getting her pregnant. He so badly wants his world to be as it was. As a reader, you begin to wish it could be for Ryden as well. But it can't. I loved that Jessica Verdi chose to make the main character Ryden and not Meg. There are so few stories about teenage fathers out there. Without getting to much into politics and social norms - it's enlightening to read a story where the father is seen as a father and not some sort of part-time babysitter. 

Secondly, Ryden has an amazing mom in the story who also had Ryden young (at eighteen, so she's a thirty-five year old grandmother - which I do admit distracted me from the story for a bit - I'm closer in age to the grandmother!) who could have yelled at her son and told him to get his crap together, but instead slowly and subtly leads him to make the right decisions himself. They had a fun, caring, and supportive relationship, which was great to read. She also brought up interesting questions about how involved should a grandparent be in this situation. 

Thirdly, Ryden meets a new friend/girlfriend, Joni, at his job at a grocery store and with it being only six or seven months since Meg's death, a reader could feel like it is too soon. Ryden even thinks at one point that it's too soon. But the character of Joni and their interaction together just makes you get behind it. The kid just needs something for himself.

Lastly, there's Meg. I thought it was a good choice to start the story after her death, because it is really about what she left behind. One of which is her best friend Alan - who does so many nice things for Ryden that I wanted to go into the book and hug him. Well, except for one thing. Meg's sister Mabel is also a good character and I liked that Ryden did not try and keep Hope away from Meg's family and friends. As for Meg herself, we get a little bit of who she is from the journals she left. You understand Meg and her decisions, but What You Left Behind shows the consequences of these actions.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Words To Live By

"Lately, I've had this idea that I can't seem to shake. What if I'm missing some crucial dad gene because I never had a dad of my own? What if I'm literally incapable of being a father to this baby because I have zero concept of what a father really is?"

"I'm already in it, even if the game started before I was warmed up and in position."


What You Left Behind was a quick read that tugged at all the right heartstrings.
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As an INFJ Tisha doesn’t like she obsesses. Luckily, she has television, film, and books to keep her busy. Although YA is her favorite, she loves all types of books especially historical fiction. This resident Gryffindor also enjoys traveling and seeing where her wanderlusting nature will take her. Twitter

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