What You Left Behind
Author: Jessica Verdi
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
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?
What You Left Behind sat on my Kindle for 6 years (SIX YEARS!!!) before I picked it up. At first, I wasn’t looking for a book that sounded so emotional. Then, it got lost in the depths of my Kindle. It was brought back to mind when two of my friendly bloggers read it this past year. Both of them enjoyed it, and so my interest was renewed. I’m now mad I waited so long to read it.
This book was addictive, but it was also emotional torture. Ryden is going through so much: grief from losing his girlfriend, being a new single teen father, having to give up so much, and the belief he was responsible for his girlfriend’s death. It was a lot to take in — especially because Ryden wasn’t handling it very well. He has the idea that Meg’s journals and finding his long lost father will help him become the father he should be. I felt for him, but he drove me up the wall. What he really needed was someone to give it to him straight. I know he was trying to avoid just that, but his delusions made me mad and sad.
Meg wasn’t alive in this book, but her presence was felt through her journals and Ryden’s memories. The memories were sweet and made me love Ryden and Meg together, but the reality the journal gave made those memories bittersweet. Some of the revelations made me upset with Meg. I didn’t leave this book with happy feelings about the decisions she made.
There were other characters in this book that helped make this story the great read it was along with Ryden and Meg. Ryden’s mom was an amazing lady. Alan was a great friend. Meg’s younger sister was a great addition. I had some so-so feelings about Joni, but her character served an important role and I actually loved what she said in the end. Two characters I didn’t love were Meg’s parents. There were several reasons, but I wish their had been some sort of arc involving them.
Overall, What You Left Behind was an impactful read. It’s one I’m going to be thinking of for a long time to come. I didn’t always love it, but I feel like it’s a book teenagers should read. The truths Ryden faced about having a baby in high school are very real.