Novel: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
Release date: August 4th, 2015 by Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
I received this book from the publisher -via Netgalley- in exchange for an honest review. All opinions shown are fully my own.
Synopsis: 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.
“Neither of us was going to win an award for Ability to Conduct Intelligent Conversations While Under Severe Emotional Stress.”
“Everything is going to be fine, Meg said. You just have to trust me. Well, it wasn’t fine. Not even close.”
“I still don’t quite get how each one of those stars is actually a sun, burning up its own part of the universe. It seems incomprehensible that something that big, that complex, that infinite, is out there, while we’re here on this stupid planet, watching reality shows and waiting in line for the new iPhone and buying all the chia seeds in the Whole Foods because some article told us it was trendy, thinking we’re tough shit, like any of it means anything.”
First of all, I want to say that I have never read a contemporary like this. The themes this book explores are just so touching and real. What You Left Behind made me feel happy and sad at the same time. It’s both full of hope, and full of despair.
If I were to describe the plot-line of this book, I’d go with something like this. It’s Ryden’s journey to both forgiveness and acceptance, while trying to balance fatherhood and high school. I can’t even imagine how hard that must be. Not only dealing with such a tremendous loss but being faced with an entirely different life at the same time.
I won’t tell you how Ryden deals with everything, you really have to read the book for that. If I tell you that, I’ve ruined the entire book. He does make some questionable decisions but in those circumstances, it’s already a miracle if you don’t have a mental breakdown.
I will say that I read this book in a matter of hours. I just kept on reading and didn’t even realize I’d already read 80% until I got up to get something to drink. I sped through it and loved every second of it.
Of course, the most obvious character is Ryden. I have to say that he is a very complicated character -which I loved. I adore some aspects about him, and others I wanted to shake out of him. He has so much love in him, even after everything he has been through. Overall, I just admire him so much.
I feel like the second main character is Meg, even though we never really get to meet her -as she has already died when the story starts. But she is the lynchpin holding this entire story together, and she is SO fascinating. And strong. And unbelievably stupid as well -I’m kind of angry about something she did, so please read the book so I can rant to you about it!
There are so many more important characters. Ryden’s mom for example, is such a big part of his life and story -and that woman is one to look up to. And Alan, Meg’s best friend. And Mabel, Meg’s sister. And then there’s Jonie, the girl Ryden meets while he works at Whole Foods. This book is just filled with interesting characters.
I would highly recommend this book! You have to sit through some bad decisions on Ryden’s part but the story is really worth it. It feels real -which is unfortunate because it is so sad. As I said before, this book sent me on an emotional rollercoaster, and I couldn’t -and wouldn’t- get off.