Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Synopsis: From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love may not be enough to conquer all.

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, theirs is bound to stay rock-solid.

The reality of being apart, though, is very different than they expected. Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen won’t understand Toni’s new world, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni’s life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

Rating: 4/5

Thoughts: *I received a copy of this book in a goodreads giveaway for an honest review*

Let’s talk about this novel. I was really excited to read this, and after waiting a couple of months after the giveaway ended, I finally received my sturdy hardcover copy. I immediately got to reading it, often pausing during holiday decorating to sneak in a few pages.

Now, is this the best book I’ve ever read? No, not by far. It’s a New Adult (NA) novel that deals with LGBTQ+ characters and their struggle to find their identities. I must say that we have a lot of representation in this novel, not just in terms of sexual and gender orientation, but also in race. Because this novel takes place at college, there are many students who are minorities, including two new friends of Toni.

Now… those are some of the strong points, the characters, the identities, and the minorities. The concept is there, but for me, it wasn’t executed in the best way. I myself am not trans or genderqueer, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the portrayal of the characters, but I found myself getting confused very often. From how the novel explained it, Gender queer is sort of an in between stage between being transgender or cisgender, but from my understanding from outside sources, it’s not just a transition phase of figuring out one’s gender. Some people identify always as gender queer, not totally cis, not totally trans, but finding themselves in the space between. This novel made it seem like something else, and I feel that for people seeking to educate themselves of sexuality and gender might confuse themselves or believe in something that isn’t entirely true. However, I have a feeling that this may have been done in order to show the confusion that the characters, particularly Gretchen, felt while trying to figure everything out with conflicting sources.

As for the story, it’s about two girls going off to different colleges, and the relationship struggles that they face while there. If it sounds like your typical NA college novel, you’re right. We’ve got the trust issues, the new friends, and the self-discovery that comes along with college and long-distance relationships. I found myself liking Toni’s story more, as she dealt more with the self-discovery, while Gretchen dealt with trust issues and new emotions and opinions about their relationship. To be honest, Gretchen and one of her new friends got on my nerves, and toward the end, something very strange happens between them that honestly just confused me greatly.

In the end, I’d recommend this book, but keep in mind that I don’t know if this is an accurate portrayal of LGBTQ+ people. Other reviewers might be able to tell you differently, but in my own opinion, it was a good NA novel that for once didn’t deal with finding a new relationship, but maintaining and figuring out what they left behind.

Review: Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach


Synopsis: Expect a bundle of joy—er, trouble—in this hilarious, heartwarming story from the award-winning author of Stupid Fast Geoff Herbach

Taco’s mom always said, “Today is the best day of your life, and tomorrow will be even better.” That was hard to believe the day she died of cancer and when Taco’s dad had to move up north for work, but he sure did believe it when Maggie Corrigan agreed to go with him to junior prom. Taco loves Maggie- even more than the tacos that earned him his nickname. And she loves him right back.

Except all that love? It gets Maggie pregnant. Everyone else may be freaking out, but Taco can’t wait to have a real family again. He just has to figure out what it means to be a dad and how to pass calculus. And then there’s getting Maggie’s parents to like him. Because it would be so much easier for them to be together if he didn’t have to climb the side of the Corrigans’ house to see her…

Rating: 1/5

Thoughts: *I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.*

I… I don’t know what to say. In all of the long years I’ve spent reading, there have been very few books that have made me so frustrated and annoyed that I literally want to throw the book across the room and never pick it up again. Unfortunately, I read this book on my kindle, so I wasn’t going to throw the book. Instead, I settled for aggressively shutting the cover on it.

The synopsis of Anything You Want suggests good potential. Teen pregnancy, unsupportive/absent families, and still a positive outlook on life? Sounds great, huh? Well…. no.

Reading this, I found myself frequently cringing and almost giving up on the novel. To be honest, the only thing that allowed me to finish this book was the idea of writing a review when I finished. I wasn’t going to let my thoughts on this novel stay locked away in my head forever. Others need to know as well.

So… I think that the main problem I had with this novel was the writing style that results from the POV of the novel. It’s told directly from Taco’s point of view. As I said on a “Currently Reading Sunday” a few weeks ago, I honestly think that “Taco” has some mental problems. He’s so optimistically pleasant, even in the worst situations. In some characters, such a child, it could be endearing. In Taco, it’s the most annoying thing. He’s so madly in love with his girlfriend that he gets himself into serious trouble in so many ways, including police incidents and the pregnancy that this book is about. He’s immature, does completely idiotic things, and there are some sections where calls himself, other characters, and possibly the reader a dingus. Thing is, coming from an Econ class where dingus almost became a term of endearment, it’s a bit weird to hear it like this, used in a strange grammatical way. It just didn’t flow right.

We do get to see Taco mature a little bit throughout the novel, as he comes to terms with certain elements of his life and makes responsible choices that help him and those around him. However, I still couldn’t find it in myself to enjoy the novel. I think I kept flipping pages just so I could see how the whole semi-idiotic affair would end (note: While I was not very impressed, I was satisfied, all things considered.) I’m not trying to malicious in this review; this is my honest opinion about the novel. I won’t say that it was the worst book I’ve ever read, because I’ve read some awful novels in my time, but… it’s getting there.

So…. in conclusion, if you’re looking a nice contemporary novel, stay very far away from this book. If you’re looking for something cringe-worthy and hard to read, by all means, go read this. You probably won’t enjoy it, but… do whatever you want, dingus.