Review: “What You Left Behind” – Jessica Verdi

August 3, 2015 Book Review 1

Review: “What You Left Behind” – Jessica VerdiWhat You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
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Published on: August 4th 2015
Published by: Sourcebooks
Pages: 320
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: eARC

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The Story(summary from Goodreads)

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?


My Thoughts

Ok, so I’ve gotta say that I have been wanting to read a book abut a single teenage father for a while. I really liked Malorie Blackman’s ‘Boy’s Don’t Cry‘ but since then I haven’t been able to find another that takes my fancy until I found What You Left Behind

Rydan, I had mixed feelings about him. He is a single dad who totally blames himself for the death of Meg (his girlfriend/mother of his child, Hope) and he is trying to keep up with work, school and his dream of getting a soccer scholarship. So yes, he is struggling and he finds out some pretty heavy stuff about Meg so there is a lot of heart break for him. Ryden takes some time to grown up, but that’s what makes him a believable character because what seventeen year old is suddenly going to change? He makes some bad choices and at times could be immature and selfish, but I found myself proud of him by the end of the book and the way in which he had grown up through the book.

But this is not your typical “oops, got pregnant in high school, what do we do now?” scenario, like what happened to her. This is the much more rare “oops, I killed the love of my life by getting her pregnant in high school and ruined my life and the lives of all her family and friends in the process” situation.

I have to speak about Meg too, because even though she isn’t alive in the book she has a hell of a lot of impact on the other characters. Starting this book we know the situation. Meg got pregnant and decided to stop her cancer treatment to give birth to her daughter even though it put her own life at risk and ultimately it killed her. That is what Rydan knows, so that is what we know. But there are some BIG reveals, and we learn more about Meg’s pregnancy and death some of which is totally shocking and in the end it made me feel very conflicted about Meg.

“Why does everything have to suck so bad? Even when you think it’s getting better, it’s not. Life’s building up suckiness, getting ready to hit you again, at the worst possible moment.”

This book has a lot of feels, and a very mixed bag at that. I went from being angry at characters to sympathetic, from laughing with them to feeling their complete and utter heartbreak. I felt Rydan’s desperation and guilt and it was crushing, but then as he comes out from under his black cloud of guilt and grief so do we and I felt proud of him. This book is not an easy ride at all, and if you are anything like me you may spend quite a bit of it angry at people for just being stupid. But then there are those other moments where it’s all about the love and the beautiful moments in life, which makes the whole things worthwhile.

“Finding someone you can really connect with is like winning the lottery — It happens basically never, but if it does, you really shouldn’t blow it.”

So I have to mention the “romance”. I was slightly nervous when I read the description because I didn’t want this to be a romance type story. But then we meet Joni and I really liked her. She was weird but in a quirky kind of way and I was like ‘I would be ok if this happened’, but then he lies to her about Hope and then it’s not really a romance so much as some “fun times” between consenting adults and eh, I didn’t like it.


Final Thoughts

This book was mostly what I wanted it to be, but at the same time it didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to. Even so I would recommend it because it’s nice story with a lot of feels and a cute baby! And also I totally love the cover!

Re-Readability: At some point

My Rating: Liked

I would recommend this book to fans of stories with: teenage parents, single fathers, lots and lots of feels, characters that you can love and be mad at, coming of age, characters dealing with grief

Have you read What You Left Behind?

What other books have you read that feature teenage pregnancy/parenthood? Any recommendations?

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One Response to “Review: “What You Left Behind” – Jessica Verdi”

  1. Lina

    Wow, this sounds like it would give you ALL THE FEELS. Rydan’s life kinda does sound like it sucks (though Meg obviously had it the hardest). I’m curious as to what he thinks will happen if he *does* get that college scholarship, what about Hope then? The romance sounds like it could be kind of annoying, though maybe realistic.