Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review- WHAT YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jessica Verdi

Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pub. Date: August 4, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Print ARC
Rating: 4 stars 

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?

That was both gratifying and eye-opening. What You Left Behind offers a realistic look on issues such as teen pregnancy, abortion, and cancer. The story is told through the voice of seventeen year-old Ryden, who gets his girlfriend, Meg, pregnant. Meg who is also a victim of cancer. It results in her dying once the baby's born, bringing on a life of all kinds of change for Ryden. We get to see first hand what life's truly like through the eyes of a teenage boy which I found quite fascinating. 

I didn't expect to feel so terribly sad at Ryden's loss for Meg the way I did. Even though she wasn't physically there with Ryden, the times when he would read her journal, I felt like we got to know her. And it made her death that much more heartbreaking. How Ryden was able to cope as well as he did astounded me. Of course, he's a teenager who wants to do teenager things. Such as okay soccer, get ready to go off to college, hang with friends; but it can't be that way anymore. He's got a baby to take care of and no one, not even his mother, is going to take that responsibility away from him.

That's one thing I loved about the story. The mother didn't enable him. Instead of yelling at him for having a baby at such a young age, she showed him tough love and true compassion. It must have been hard seeing her child go through so much that she wasn't able to take away the pain. She helped him the only way she knew how. 

The moment Ryden meets Joni, he feels like he can finally breath again. She doesn't know anything about him - meaning she knows nothing about Meg or the baby. Joni is a free spirit, a girl who doesn't quite play by the rules. Her character was very interesting to say the least. I liked her immediately and I could definitely see her appeal. She was a good fit for Ryden. 

Overall, this is an emotionally-charged story about what it means to grow up at a young age. A child being a parent to a child. I fully recommend older teenagers read this book. Teenage pregnancy is not like 16 & Pregnant or Teen Mom! I mean sure, the hardships they go through could be real to an extent but bottom line, they got paid to be on a reality tv show. What happens after the fifteen minutes of fame? Probably a whole lot of nothing. I'm not trying to preach and I'm getting off topic. 

Read this book! It's deep and heartfelt; one that will be hard to forget. 

*Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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About the Author:
Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dog. Visit her at and follow her on Twitter @jessverdi.

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