Genre: Grief

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Good Exploration of Grief: What We Leave Behind by Allison McGhee

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A Good Exploration of Grief: What We Leave Behind by Allison McGhee
What I Leave Behind
Alison McGhee
Genre: Contemporary, Grief, YA
Publication date: May 15th, 2018
by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.

Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.

When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.
-A copy was provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers for review-

I wasn’t entirely sure what I expected when I started What I Leave Behind and while I haven’t made my mind about the actual content of the book, I was pleasantly surprised by the format?? I am not even sure if there a word to describe the style but the story is told in these short snapshots into Will’s mind that are somehow able to paint a bigger picture even though less words are used.

So. What I Leave Behind is the story of Will. It’s been three years since his father committed suicide and he is still processing the trauma while trying to recreate his father’s infamous cornbread. When his friend is raped, he decides that he needs to do something. His need to do something starts to awaken him from his depressive slumber and he starts responding again to the world around him.

I think part of my issue is that while the book is about Will processing his own trauma, it uses Playa’s–his friend–rape as a crucial point in Will’s narrative. There is this moment where Will’s boss Tom apologizes to Will for what happened and that made me uncomfortable because it wasn’t Will’s trauma. The issue for me wasn’t that it wasn’t Playa’s story but how this traumatic event was used to aid Will’s story arc.

There was an instance where the “wise old Asian lady” trope was employed and the wise old lady spoke in broken English and was a generic Asian which was was cool. By which I mean not cool at all. This happens so frequently in books and media and general and I feel like so many of us have internalized it but I am trying to be better about calling these things out because it is important!

Anyway, moving on. I do think that What We Leave Behind is an impeccable exploration of grief and trauma. It isn’t about getting to the point where everything is okay and there is an HEA. What We Leave Behind places importance on the process of healing and understanding trauma. It’s not about getting to the point where everything is okay, it is about being in the process of being okay someday.

Will’s awakening is about him starting to notice the little things his mom has been doing for the past three years, its about him saying him connecting to the people in his environment like the butterfly man and Superman. What We Leave Behind is also about Will reconnecting to old friends who he kind of cut out of his life after everything went down with his father.

Overall, this book certainly has some good things going for it and a worthy read for younger readers (it reads more Middle Grade than Young Adult) but I also think its worth talking about how Playa’s trauma is used as a way for Will to work towards healing. 

3 Stars
3 Hot Espressos

‘Stranded in an Airport’ Story I’ve Been Waiting For: The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

‘Stranded in an Airport’ Story I’ve Been Waiting For: The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

Posted by on 01/12/2018 • 6 Comments

The first discovered Jessica Brody with 52 Reasons to Hate My Father. She immediately had my intention and I really wanted to read everything she wrote but I quickly found out that perhaps everything she wrote wasn’t for me. Which is unfortunate because I really enjoyed her writing style. But then I came The Chaos of Standing Still, a book that demanded my attention.

At 403 pages The Chaos of Standing Still is not a short book but don’t let it fool you. Those 403 pages FLY BY. There are books I’ve read where even 300 pages feel like they are too fucking much but Jessica Brody knows how to pace a story well. In fact she probably deserves an award because there have not been many times in my…

A Letter Was Found in the Pages Of Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

A Letter Was Found in the Pages Of Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Posted by on 07/28/2017 • 2 Comments


Dear person reading this,

You might be wondering why I chose this page to write in & that is for several reasons including OTP feels but really, even if you haven’t read this book, you can relate to the way words move these characters in these pages. CATH CROWLEY is easily one of my fav authors and her words never fail to move me. Words in a Deep Blue was no different. The words in this book will make you cry, will make you laugh and most likely, the words in this book will change your life. Read it.

Love, Rashika

***images used in aesthetic do not belong to me***

5 Hot Espressos

Rashika’s Guide to Reading What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

Rashika’s Guide to Reading What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

Posted by on 07/07/2017 • 4 Comments

I felt like doing something a little different for this incredibly amazing book so I took some inspiration from the book (unfortunately, the title of this post references a terrible thing that happens… whoops) and decided to make a guide to reading What to Say Next.

1. Go grocery shopping before diving in. Make sure you buy Kleenex and stock up on your comfort foods. You will be needing those things very soon.

2. Prepare for a heartbreaking discussion on grief and death. If that’s not something you can do right now, probably don’t read the book but if you do choose to, there will be tears if you are a human bean (refer to the first point in this guide.)

3. Pace yourself because you’re in for a serious bookish hangover…

A Powerful Novel about Grief: The Girl with the Ghost Machine by Lauren DeStefano

A Powerful Novel about Grief: The Girl with the Ghost Machine by Lauren DeStefano

Posted by on 06/30/2017 • 2 Comments

Back in the day, everyone would rave about DeStefano’s YA series but I never really got around to reading the Wither series. Years later, here I am raving about DeStefano’s middle grade series. I honestly cannot imagine if her YA books could be any better or honestly, if any YA book could even tackle grief the way DeStefano does in every single one of the middle grade books I’ve read by her.

So probably there is some book out there that does grief better BUT THATS NOT THE POINT OF THIS REVIEW. The point of this review is so that I can sing The Girl with the Ghost Machine praises because series, this book hits you right in the fucking feels.

Emmaline Beaumont’s father starts building a ghost machine when her…