What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
Pages: 368 Pages
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks, August 2015
*Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book for reviewing purposes*
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 liked how the issue this book dealt with. Issues such as death, teenage pregnancy, life as a single dad etc. are sometimes very sensitive issues that are often difficult to read about. This book touched these subjects in a very raw and real way. I appreciated that about this book.
I really liked the depiction of the relationships between certain characters. The best one I would say is between Alan and Ryden — Verdi does a great job at showing the struggles the two have in finding a way to remember Meg but still moving on at the same time. The relationship between Ryden and his mom were really interesting as well. One key aspect I found the most interesting was how the characters were imperfect. I found myself getting frustrated at the characters for making certain decisions during the book, however I realized that this is just simply reality. Not everyone is going to make the right decisions 24/7. Verdi finds a great way to display this human quality through the characters in this book.
Overall, I felt like all the situations/problems that Ryden had to deal with made it very realistic. It added to the level of complexity of the plot.
I just didn’t like the romance that was going on in this book. It just didn’t feel right, forced almost. It felt unnecessary. My next sentence is a little bit spoiler-ish, so you might want to skip ahead to the next section of my review if you haven’t read this book! I honestly just didn’t buy the romance between Ryden and Joni; I couldn’t see their connection or understand it. I’m glad that their relationship wasn’t the focal part for the entire book.
Writing Style: 4/5
I found that I was a little frustrated while I was reading this book, however, I found that the ending/how the problems at hand wrapped up eased my frustrations. The raw reality of this book makes it a really touching book. I found that I grew to like Ryden more — he was just a teenager, dealing with issues that were bigger than him. This book definitely gave great insight into life as a teenager parent and dealing with the issues that coincide with being one.