Friday, August 14, 2015
What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi + Make it a Gift
What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
Review by Lauren
Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: 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. 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?
Review: When I was younger, I used to just browse the library and pick up books that sounded good. I remember coming across one about a teen father and I loved that it existed, because any books about teen pregnancy for teens tend to focus on the mom and the dad is usually a deadbeat who won't admit the kid is even his child. That's not at all what Verdi did in What You Left Behind.
Ryden and Meg were a teenage romance. They loved each other, they had sex. They probably wouldn't have lasted into college, but Med had cancer and when she got pregnant, she gave up on chemo to have the baby. Ryden blames himself, even after Meg has their daughter Hope and has passed on. He can't move forward in life, surrounded by his grief and guilt and unsure about what will happen after he graduates high school.
I really liked Ryden's friendship with Joni; it gave him a chance to feel like a regular teenage boy again. At the same time, he's keeping Hope and Meg from her and I knew that it would all come out and eventually affect how Joni saw him. Whether that was good or bad, I had a bit of a wait. Another great secondary character was actually Ryden's mom. This was not a case of absent parent in YA novel. While Meg's parents are not happy with Ryden and don't want to be in Hope's life, Ryden's mom does everything she can for her son and granddaughter. It was really great to see!
What You Left Behind is sad and emotional, but it's also full of new hope (pun intended) and joy.
Make it a Gift:
If you decide to gift this novel to someone, I suggest adding Season One of the TV show Raising Hope. Hope is the baby - which is what initially made me think of this show - but it's also about a young father raising the baby with only his parents help.