Book Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

what you left behind

What You Left Behind

3.5 stars

Ryden Brooks is carrying around a lot of guilt. He got his girlfriend, Meg, pregnant and she chose to have the baby. Which meant stopping her chemo treatments. She kept assuring him that she would be fine. She lied. Now Ryden is struggling to raise their daughter, about the start his senior year of high school, needs to blow away the scouts so he can get a soccer scholarship to university, and hold down his part time job. His mother helps out but they’re just getting by. Joni, a co-worker of Ryden’s, is a blessing. She makes Ryden feel like the old him and he doesn’t want to ruin that by telling her about his daughter. It gets harder and harder to keep his two worlds separate and when they do collide, there’s nothing Ryden can do to stop it.

This was a book I was really looking forward to reading as the plot just screamed heartbreak and growth. It was contemporary from a male’s POV, which is something that seems to be happening more often now and I’m really liking that. The tragedy and struggles that faced Ryden never felt sugar-coated and I really enjoyed seeing him grow as a person.

I thought Ryden was a great main character. He was in no way perfect or even likeable at times but he felt realistic. He had no chance to grieve the death of his girlfriend before being thrust into the role of father and he was in no way prepared to be a parent. He doubted himself, he wanted to live his life, he didn’t want to give up the future he’d planned for himself, but he also didn’t want to give away the only piece of Meg he had left. There was a lot he had to learn about being a parent, being a responsible person, growing up, and he struggled with it. He could be selfish and totally irresponsible but he was also consumed by grief and no matter how much I wanted to slap some sense into him at times, I also felt for him.

Joni was a lot of fun and I could see why Ryden was drawn to her. She was independent and funny and easy-going and they fit together well. I did find it a bit hard to get into the romance aspect of it since Ryden was keeping such a huge secret from her. Alan, Meg’s best friend, was a great secondary character, as was Mabel, Meg’s younger sister. They were also both grieving Meg in their own ways and it showed how different people struggle to move on. My favourite character in the whole book was Ryden’s mother. She was caring but also stern. She was helping Ryden raise his baby but she wouldn’t do it all for him.

The main plot of Ryden trying to raise Hope, coping with being a single parent in high school and grieving Meg was broken up with journal entries from Meg. These became an important part of the plot as they offered Ryden a glimpse into what she was thinking and going through as they were dating, as she was pregnant, and her true feelings behind it all. I thought it was well done but I did feel a bit of a disconnect from the journal entries as we never got to know Meg.

It was an emotional read but I was expecting more heartbreak and tears, which never came. It was sad but it was also hopeful. A lot more soul-repairing than the soul-destroying read I was anticipating. Not saying that was a bad thing.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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4 Comments

Filed under books, reviews, ya books

4 responses to “Book Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

  1. I agree. I really liked Alan and the mother as well. I liked how WYLB was about a single, teenaged-dad instead of the typical teenage-mom society makes you picture. I felt it was realistic as well but I also gave it a 3.5 like you. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Weekly Reading Recap | Overflowing Bookshelves

  3. Pingback: Comparing Before and After: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi | Overflowing Bookshelves

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