ARC Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi


What You Left Behind
Series: None
Author: Jessica Verdi
Published August 4th 2015 by Sourcebooks

Goodreads 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.

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?

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way impacted on my view.

This book was just angst, with a side order of even more angst. I mean, that was not a surprise, at all, but there weren't many happy, fluffy moments. However, What You Left Behind was still an enjoyable read, if 'enjoyable' is the right word to be using about a cancer book.

Ryden was a really great narrator for this story. He was far from perfect, and didn't hide that fact. Let's be honest, what 17 year old boy, or girl really, who's basically guaranteed a scholarship to play soccer (football) at uni, will want to be left as a single parent to a new born? Before Meg got pregnant, they were happy. Yes, she had cancer, but she was undergoing chemo, and it seemed to be working. Now, he's lost his girlfriend, has a baby, and is struggling to juggle childcare, work, soccer practise, and school. I can completely understand his anger and frustration - even a saint would be. To top it all off, he thinks baby Hope hates him, and that he's an awful father.

I liked the side plot of Ryden looking to find Meg's hidden journals, even if they did bring to light some really difficult issues. At times, I even hated Meg for what she did, but I could also kind of understand her thought processes. Hands down, though, I don't think Ryden was to blame for anything that happened prior to the start of the book, and hated the times when he, and others, thought this. To me, Ryden was just a struggling parent, trying the best that he could to placate his daughter, whilst also struggling with the grief of losing his girlfriend to cancer. By the end of the novel, Ryden was the best father ever, and Hope was a wonderful, happy, little baby girl. What more could you want?

Joni and Ryden's relationship was sweet, though the secret keeping left a taste in my mouth and I couldn't fully enjoy it. Again, I understood Ryden's reasoning for keeping secrets, but that still messed everything up in the long run. These main characters, and the side character's, such as Alan, Mabel, and Deanna, brought the story to life, and showed that being a teenage parent is difficult, and that life is not perfect, in the slightest. I think this was the main message of the story, and Verdi did a wonderful job in conveying this.

On the whole, What You Left Behind was a really well written, and thought out story. Not the happiest of topics, it didn't shy away from the hard issues, and I think that's the wonderful thing about modern YA fiction. Through these types of books, teenagers can learn about difficult problems, in a way that's safe and also enjoyable. If that type of book appeals to you, this would be the perfect addition to your shelves.

Dates Read:
July 11-16, 2015

4 Stars

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  1. I love the books that tackle the hard issues, so sounds like something I would really enjoy

    1. Me too, these issues need to be discussed, not ignored. I'd definitely check it out if I was you, it was enjoyable though angsty.