Publisher: Simon & Schuster BfYR


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

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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

Adventurous and Swoony: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Adventurous and Swoony: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Posted by on 03/30/2018 • 1 Comment

I’ve been reading Jenn Bennett for half a decade now and she’s been one of those authors I basically just read anything by. I don’t need a summary or acclaim, I JUST NEED BOOKS BY JENN BENNETT. This book had the added advantage of having an enemies-to-lovers/friends-to-lovers romance trope and an survival-esque story so like… yeah.

Unsurprisingly, I loved this book but I also got to buddy-read it with a close friend which made my experience reading it all the more better. But as anyone knows, loving a book doesn’t make writing a review any easier. It probably makes it a lot harder.

Zorie and Lennon used to be the best of friends and were on their way to becoming something more when something goes wrong. Now they go out…

Didn’t Love: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Didn’t Love: American Panda by Gloria Chao

Posted by on 02/02/2018 • 3 Comments

American Panda was one of my most anticipated novels of 2018 so it is truly unfortunate that I did not, in fact, love it. I do want to start off by saying that I don’t intend to discourage anyone from reading the book in this review, just convey my experience with it. We are at a point in time where even though there is a large influx in diverse books, we still don’t have nearly enough. Stats show that the number of diverse books published by diverse authors every year is so dismal. I hope that this book will allow many many many kids to see themselves reflected in the story and that they will be able to cherish it.

That said, my biggest issue with the book is not…

‘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…

Might Have Been Better In Verse: Wait for Me by An Na

Might Have Been Better In Verse: Wait for Me by An Na

Posted by on 11/02/2017 • 0 Comments

Wait for Me was a new-to-me title when it showed up on my (metaphorical) doorstep. I hadn’t heard much about it but upon some research found out it was being republished with a pretty new cover and all. I dove into the book not entirely sure what to expect but ready to meet new characters and enjoy a new story.

This review is a hard one to write because upon finishing, I am not entirely sure how I feel about Wait for Me. I am divided on it because there are parts of it I enjoyed and other parts that really made it hard for me to finish the book feeling like I had read something worthwhile.

I think the number one issue I had with the book was just the pacing…

Author Interview: Sandhya Menon

Author Interview: Sandhya Menon

Posted by on 06/02/2017 • 0 Comments

HELLO and welcome back to this fancy feature that Nick (Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist) and I are collaborating on! This month I am sharing an interview I did with Sandhya Menon! So PLEASE GIVE HER a virtual round of applause.

1. If Dimple and Rishi’s romance could be set to only one bollywood song, which one would it be?

Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, definitely. 🙂

2. What is one book you think the world would just not be the same without?

Ahhh, really, just one?! Hmm…I guess I’d pick The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

3. If Dimple and Rishi were a food pairing, what would they be? (I AM JUST CURIOUS, OKAY)

Haha, this is an amazing question! I’d say…sea salt and…

Explores the bizarre & complex social environment of high school: Say No to the Bro by Kat Helgeson

Explores the bizarre & complex social environment of high school: Say No to the Bro by Kat Helgeson

Posted by on 05/18/2017 • 3 Comments

Doesn’t this book have the best title ever? If a title alone had the capacity to sell a book to anyone, it was be the title to this book. I was certainly sold before I even saw the cover or read the blurb for the book because who can resist a book titled Say No to the Bro?

Does the book actually live up to its amazing title? I don’t really know how to answer that question and should probably not start all my paragraphs in this review with a question because I am told that is bad writing. Say No to the Bro was not at all what I expected and I don’t know if I mean that in a good or bad way. It is somewhere in the middle to be…

An Adventurous Middle Grade Novel: The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

An Adventurous Middle Grade Novel: The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Posted by on 05/10/2017 • 1 Comment

5 Things You Need To Know About The Gauntlet

1. It is a great book for kids who love games and kids who love RP games. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you were made a character in your fav game? WELL THIS BOOK ANSWERS all those questions and more.

2. Friendships are a huge deal in this book. Farah and her friends grew apart when she moved and as they are forced into The Gauntlet, they reconnect and work together to rescue Farah’s brothers. Lots of cutes to go around.

3. It is fast paced. While I do enjoy a fast paced book, I did feel like it was a little rushed in terms of development and transitions from challenge to challenge.

4. FOOD PORN. Lots and lots of…