What You Left Behind
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: August 4, 2015
by Sourcebooks Fire
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?
-A copy was provided by Sourcebooks Fire for review-
No, seriously, guys.
Pre-order this. Right now. Oh, no, you don’t – don’t give me that wary glance. I’m not telling you this just because I want you to drain your hard-earned money, because I care where your hard-earned money should be spent — on worthwhile books.
And guys, it can’t get any more worthwhile than What You Left Behind by Jessica-fucking-fantastic-Verdi.
I mean, when do you usually read about a contemporary novel about a seventeen-year-old male teenager who suddenly found himself a father of a newborn girl, whose cancer-stricken mother (his girlfriend, Meg Reynolds) died before the baby was even born? Look at those emphasized words. Look at them carefully – isn’t that the recipe of “holy-shit-that-sounds-intriguing-as-hell”?
Guys, this is an emotional, heartfelt, and heart-breaking story of a young hero whose life took a confusing and uncertain turn at a time when he had his future set out for him. What are you to do when it feels like your girlfriend died because of you? What are you to do when you have a young one depending on you, when you don’t even know what to do with yourself? What are you to do when so many things are crying for your attention – your schoolwork, your job, your soccer practices – when you aren’t even able to take care of your damn kid properly?
This book made me feel all sorts of feelings. It felt like a realistic portrayal of someone who didn’t know what to do and was crumbling from all the pressures and responsibilities. It was so refreshing to see it from a male perspective… usually when it comes to teenage parents, we all get it from the eyes of the mothers. Heck, we even have TV shows for that, but what about the teenage fathers? What do they go through? How do they feel about it? It was an intimate journey witnessing Ryder’s struggles and insecurities in light of his life’s recent developments, and how he coped with his conflicting feelings and bottled guilt.
I did have one problem, though…
I know that this was mainly about Ryder’s growth. He had to learn how to forgive himself, to move on, and to make life worth it whatever his circumstances. However, I was quite disappointed that there wasn’t much portrayal about his being a father and how he was going to cope with it… Hope, his baby, was such an integral part of why he was so lost, and yet, Hope was mainly by the sidelines. By the end, he realized what it meant to be a father, but it wasn’t really shown. It felt like his romance with a new girl took more pagetime than being with his daughter.
That’s my only complaint. I would have loved more father/daughter time since I’m a daddy’s girl, too.
But otherwise, this was great. The narration was very personal and very realistic, full of emotions that would easily connect to any reader. I love how parents were an important part here, too, as the support to their kids as they tried to find their path in life. The character development, Meg’s presence even thought she wasn’t physically there anymore, and the idea how everything in life is one big mess but it’s up to us on what to do with it.
Seriously guys, pre-order this book. You won’t regret it.