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BOOK REVIEW: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

| 29 July 2015 | 1 Reply

BOOK REVIEW: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

Sourcebooks FIRE
August 2015
Paperback, $9.99 USD
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli
7.5/10

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Lately, I’ve had this idea that I can’t seem to shake.
What if I’m missing some crucial dad gene because I never had a dad of my own? What if I’m literally incapable of being a father to this baby because I have zero concept of what a father really
is?

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If only he’d stayed away from Meg in the first place, she wouldn’t have ended up pregnant and she wouldn’t have stopped her chemotherapy sessions in order to keep the baby. If only he’d insisted a little more on the abortion. If only he hadn’t been so selfish.

Here’s a seventeen year old boy whose life has been turned upside down. Before, he was the popular goalkeeper everyone adored: he went to parties, he had a lot of friends, he could almost touch the scholarship he knew he was going to get.

But then he fell in love with Meg.

But this is not your typical “oops, got pregnant in high school, what do we do now?” scenario, like what happened to her. This is the much more rare “oops, I killed the love of my life by getting her pregnant in high school and ruined my life and the lives of all her family and friends in the process” situation.

And his selfishness killed her. Or so he believes. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell him it’s not his fault, Ryden can’t shake the idea that it actually is. Now, he’s stuck at home changing diapers and waking up at all hours of the night, rather than partying and playing soccer. It doesn’t help that in a few weeks’ time, soccer training starts up again and if he doesn’t show up, he’ll be off the team.

If that happens, it’s goodbye scholarship and hello permanent position at Whole Foods.

Humans should be more like deer: a few minutes after they’re born, they start to walk; a week later, they start going to look for food with their mothers; and a year after that, they’re on their own. Simple.
I don’t want to go to Mom– not yet. If I let her take over the plans, soccer will be the first thing to go.
A thought creeps into the back of my brain: if it’s this hard to figure out what to do with Hope now, what’s it going to be like when I’m at UCLA?

Things are just about to get harder, though. Not only does Ryden need to find someone to look after Hope whilst he goes to soccer practice, but school is about to start back up, which means he’ll need someone to watch Hope all day, every day. With a schedule like his, how will he ever be able to handle everything at once? And how can he raise Hope properly, when he didn’t have a father himself and has no idea what to do?

The only thing keeping Ryden grounded is Meg’s journal — one she accidentally left at his house before she died. That is, until he discovers another journal, but this one has a checklist. Has Meg left a journal behind for everyone? Will this help Ryden discover who he has to be? It becomes an obsession, finding the other missing journals, but Ryden won’t give up.

You’re born — more likely than not an unintended byproduct of your parents wanting to get laid– you do some stuff, and then you die. You get sick, you get hit by a train, you get old and fall apart. It all ends the same way. And that’s it. Then your kids get horny, have a kid, and the cycle starts again.
What is the
point of any of it?

What You Left Behind is a poignant coming-of-age story about a young teenage boy entering into fatherhood alone. Ryden is your typical teenage boy — horny, irritable and incredibly selfish — and this makes him realistic. The reader will love being inside his head, feeling his struggles as he tries to piece together the mystery of Meg’s journals, dealing with soccer and school and work, and a newborn baby he doesn’t know how to handle.

This is not a relaxing book. Readers will find themselves irritated and upset and very emotional, just as Ryden is. He has a lot of issues he has to deal with, and they’re not easy to solve. A lot of the time, he says Hope is his niece or his baby sister, because he’s embarrassed; he lies to the girl he likes because he wants so desperately go back to “normal Ryden” — the guy who partied and had lots of friends and girlfriends; he takes people and situations for granted and makes tonnes of mistakes.

But he learns, and grows up, and it’s a real pleasure to see his character develop as the book goes on. Highly recommended.

 

 

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

Comments (1)

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  1. veena singh says:

    Hi

    just finished reading the book too and loved it.nice review!

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