Title: What You Left Behind
Author: Jessica Verdi
Genre: Realistic, young adult
Date Read: 28 July 2017
Rating: 5 Stars
Few books these days can suck me in from the very first page and drag me to the very end, but Jessica Verdi’s What You Left Behind did that very thing. Ryden Brooks is a single teen father ridden with guilt over the death of his girlfriend, Meg. She was fighting a battle with cancer when he got her pregnant and because she wouldn’t terminate the pregnancy, she passed away after giving birth. Trying to balance between being a parent, grieving for his girlfriend, and getting into UCLA with a full ride athletic scholarship, there isn’t much time to do anything else. Until he finds some of Meg’s journals that could reveal the key to her death and Joni, a girl he finds himself falling in love with in spite of all his anxieties.
I loved this book for its originality. Usually when we talk about teen pregnancy or cancer, we usually see it through the eyes of the girl. Rarely do we get a glimpse of what it’d be like for the teen father to balance new responsibilities with every day life. Rarely do we get to see a teen boy grieving for someone he loved so much.
Verdi made tough subjects real and she wrote the story in a believable, easy way. I’m glad that she didn’t sugarcoat Ryden’s experience post-Meg. Even though he’s a single parent, he’s still a 17 year old boy who notices the girls and goes through regular teen problems. She didn’t make him a saint who suddenly did everything by the books.
I rated What You Left Behind 5 stars because I couldn’t put it down and for its perspective. There is a part near the end that made me go “What?!!” when I read it and I was a little unsure as to whether those choices could really happen, but it was a minor detail that worked for what was going on.