Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

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Synopsis: 

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?

Date Finished: 9-20-2015

Rating: 3.5/5

Thoughts: *Thank you Netgalley and SourceBooks Fire for providing me with a copy of this book to review!*

I’m not exactly where to start with this review, so I’ll just say that this book was a good read. I was drawn in by the synopsis and the title. This time the cover didn’t play as much of a role in my choice, but after reading and looking back at the cover, I feel that the cover does a really good job of capturing the mood of this book.

This book is split up between Ryden balancing his parental duties (which he often passes off to other people) with his school and sports, his growing relationship with Joni, a girl at work, and trying to find the journals that Meg left behind for him, which he thinks might have the key to being a good parent for their daughter, Hope.

I generally liked all of the characters, especially Joni. She’s not a stereotypical love interest. She’s unique and toward the end pushes back against the way she’d been treated by someone. That uniqueness will probably make hera favorite of many readers. Ride was very fleshed out, both in his inner thoughts and actions. He’s a teen, but he’s got adult responsibilities now. Despite that, he still makes mistakes like any human would. I actually really liked that it was told directly from his 1st person POV. It’s not always that common to find a YA novel where you get to get directly in a guy’s head, with all of the male thoughts and all. (You know what I mean.) Anyway, even though we never get to meet Meg, we still learn of her personality through memories and journal entries, which actually helped me feel more sympathy toward Ryden and his situation.

Now, there are a few twists and turns throughout the book. Revelations occur with each journal entry. So many things happen in all aspects of Ryden’s life, and one event even changes his view on a character (my view as well!) It was actually this twist that brought my rating down from a solid 4 to a 3.5. Without giving anything away, I just feel that a character did something incredibly selfish, despite the motive behind it.

Nevertheless, Jessica Verdi wrote this beautiful, thought provoking book in a sentimental, angsty, and reflective way that makes it a perfect afternoon read of the weekend. It’s definitely a page turner, so you’ll be done with it soon. It has a similar tone as that of Take Care Sara and If I Stay, so fans of those novels might enjoy this.

Happy Reading, Starlight Readers!

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