August 5, 2015
Jessica Verdi, the author of My Life After Now and The Summer I Wasn’t Me, returns with a heartbreaking and poignant novel of grief and guilt that reads like Nicholas Sparks for teens.
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?
I couldn’t find a trailer, so here’s a song!
Can I just start by saying that this book is fan-freaking-tastic? What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi was a novel that managed to capture my attention from the novel’s brief synopsis and held onto me ever since. The premise of a single, teen father is unique and the plot of the novel will leave readers eager to continue reading if it means discovering the secrets that control the storyline. I’m just going to say it now (and probably reiterate it later) that What You Left Behind is a novel that everyone should read. It’s that good.
About to enter his senior year of high school and ready to earn a soccer scholarship, Ryden isn’t anything like other teenagers. Mourning the loss of his girlfriend, Meg, Ryden is consumed with guilt. Why? Because Meg had cancer… and got pregnant with Ryden’s baby. Carrying their daughter took her life and Ryden can’t stop blaming himself. If he hadn’t gotten her pregnant, she would still be alive and with him. Alone and trying to figure out parenthood by himself while also juggling his day-to-day life, Ryden reads Meg’s journals to learn more about the girl he loved.
But as he begins to read more of Meg’s journals, he begins to discover that she’s left behind a mystery for him to solve. There are secret journals that she’s left for him and Ryden is deadset on finding them. All the while, Ryden meets Joni. She’s unique, to say the least. She’s a bit weird and a bit awesome and a bit sexy. As Ryden embarks on a mission to truly know everything about Meg before it’s too late, he begins to realize that first loves might not always be your last love, and that nothing is ever what it seems.
The way that What You Left Behind is written is so perfect. I can’t get over the amount of feels that I felt because of this novel or the amount of times that I squealed with joy and then slammed the book down in frustration. The way that Verdi writes easily evokes a multitude of emotions in the reader. Told in the first person, What You Left Behind is simplistic and fun, but also nails Ryden’s character. He’s believable. The type of guy whose head screams ‘Popular Jock’ and also ‘Jerkish Asshole’ at times.
What You Left Behind is unique in that the way the story is told has you feeling like you’re reading two different stories at once. The first, is Ryden’s story of parenthood and stress and trying to make ends meet. The second, is a normal, teenage Ryden falling in love with Meg. The way that Verdi writes Ryden’s flashbacks to his and Meg’s time together is perfection. You see their relationship unfold before your eyes and you want nothing more than for the two characters to end up together. The catch: you already know how their love story ends. It’s heartbreaking and tragic and I loved every moment of it.
What You Left Behind is the kind of novel that you could easily finish in one sitting. As the plot thickens, the story becomes addictive and it’s impossible to not want to know more. It feels real in the most unreal way.
I would recommend What You Left Behind to readers who are looking for a novel that will hook them and hold on tight. Readers who are fans of YA contemporary romances should definitely give it a look. Any readers who want a novel with a unique storyline and a series of plot twists that will leave them reeling, should also give it a look. This is one story that you don’t want to miss.