(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by Sourcebooks, Inc. on August 4th 2015
Genres: Social Issues, Young Adult
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?"Ryden's story is a moving illustration of how sometimes you have to let go of the life you planned to embrace the life you've been given. A strong, character-driven story that teen readers will love."-Carrie Arcos, National Book Award Finalist for Out of Reach
What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi is a book that immediately got my attention. Not only is the cover perfect (in my opinion) but this is from a male point of view and for whatever reason, I enjoy a good story told from a boy’s point of view. Now, I don’t always do the contemporary stuff but this was one I dove right into.
I thought Ryden was a great character. He used to be the popular boy and now…he’s a senior in high school, working part time, trying to figure out how to get a soccer scholarship he has been banking on forever. Oh…and he’s a single dad. His girlfriend, Meg, who had cancer and ultimately ended up pregnant, died and Ryden is taking care of their daughter, Hope.
Ryden definitely isn’t perfect here. He tries really hard but things are definitely unraveling and on top of that he is angry about the way Meg’s story ended. As he starts to dig deeper, he only gets more frustrated, confused, and yes…angrier. At times he takes advantage of his friends and he definitely should have told Joni, a girl he meets at work, about the important things in his life. While I completely sympathize and understand his need to be someone other than “the teenage dad”, I also understand why she was so upset with him.
The fact that Verdi made Ryden’s mother an integral part of this story made me happy. Not only did she play a major role in the support system Ryden needed every day just to care for Hope, but she was the person who injected a bit of realism into his life and really tried to get him to see what was coming.
Outside of Ryden coming to terms with how his life is changing, he is also slowly finding out what Meg was up to toward the end of her life. This book is not all rainbows and puppy dogs – Ryden makes some bad choices along the way but he is a teenage boy, I would have been more surprised if he hadn’t.
I thought this book was done well and had a realistic view of what (I would imagine) would be a teenage boys experience as a single dad trying to finish school and achieve the one thing he has always wanted. If you’re looking for a story that has potential to make you feel all the things and a realistic male narrator, definitely check this one out. I’m glad I did!