Title: What You Left Behind
Author: Jessica Verdi
Publication: August 4th 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire
Format: Advance Reading Copy
Source: Provided by the publisher
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 ARC of this book from Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review. By no means have my review been affected and/or influenced.
What You Left Behind is a fast paced story about Ryden, a teenage father struggling to put his life back together after the sudden death of her cancer-stricken girlfriend leaving behind a baby that he doesn’t have any idea how to raise.
It’s understandable how Ryden blames himself for Meg’s death but this somehow affected his relationship with Hope, their baby. Even if it wasn’t directly mentioned, you’ll see it in his actions. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to deal with Hope at all but he just depended on almost anyone who’s willing to take care of his child and wasn’t really taking any responsibility. Ryden can’t seem to accept the fact that he’s already a father at 17.
Ryden wanted to live his life like nothing ever happened, like there is no baby. With a Soccer scholarship almost in grasp, he wants to see himself as the same old Ryden, just less of Meg and none of Hope.
And with Joni, he can be that guy, or so he thinks.
Joni, a nose ring wearing, free-spirited girl, is Ryden’s co-worker. She doesn’t have any idea about Ryden’s past which Ryden thinks as a good thing because in that way, he can live 2 separate lives…
but Ryden, you’re not Hannah Montana, you can’t have the best of both worlds.
All throughout the book I lost count of how many “if this was a movie” lines Ryden threw, I guess it’s because he thinks that the things that happened to him can only be seen in the movies and he can’t deal with it in reality. Some parts in the book were also predictable but nonetheless, I still enjoyed reading it.
Lastly, I praise how the book dealt with the heavy stuff like cancer and teenage pregnancy. What You Left Behind shed its light on denial, struggles, disappointments and acceptance. It’s worth the read for all the feels.
What You Left Behind is definitely something to watch out for! The book is out on August 4th 2015.
Character Development – Ryden started out as the boy with the wrong priorities. The way I see it, Soccer was more important than Hope. He is irresponsible when it comes to raising his own child. It may have taken quite a while to see him change, but it’s rather believable than to see Ryden on a sudden 180. Although, when it comes to having a child, you can’t just sit around and expect things to be the same as before. Things may not go as planned but they won’t change when they don’t work out with yours, the change is up to you.
Narration – I sometimes encounter male POVs that sound like a girl when they think/speak (which is a sore point for me) but with Ryden, his voice is on point and sensible. It made me believe that the perspective I’m reading from, in fact, is of a 17 year old boy.
Mystery – What Megan left behind wasn’t just a baby but a bunch of journals containing unspoken thoughts inside her head. The mystery wasn’t just where could have Meg left the journals but what’s also inside it. A quote from the song If I Die Young by The Band Perry says “Funny, when you’re dead how people start listening”. The situation wasn’t exactly the same because before, the journals were for Meg’s eyes only and what’s written in there may/may not be intended for anyone to read but just the fact that such journals exist made Ryden want to hear more of what Meg had to say.
Book Description and Cover Image from Goodreads