Welcome to my first post for the Sunday Street Team, which is both created and hosted by the lovely Nori @ ReadWriteLove28. So the first book I’m going to talk about for SST is What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi.
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Publisher / Imprint: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Source: Received e-ARC via Netgalley & Purchased Copy from Barnes & Noble
Summary (from Goodreads):
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?
In this review, I’m going to spoil so many things in this book so I’m going to talk about that in the end of this review. So let’s talk about the characters. I think so far, Ryden is one of the most realistic characters from the books I’ve read this year. As I was reading this book, I felt the struggles and his stress in front of me that he’s trying to balance out. With his AP classes, his job at the grocery store, playing soccer so he can get his ticket to go to his future college, UCLA, and mostly, taking care of his daughter, Hope, it’s difficult to accomplish all of that, especially when you’re parenting while going to school, from a teen’s viewpoint, not an adult who still goes to school. I like how it relates to many people, especially me, who have been stressing out with school and sports / home or personal stuff and I can relate to him not at the same level with him but how he feels is what makes me relate to him a bit.
I didn’t expect Meg to come as much in the book. When you read a book with someone grieving over their loved one’s death, you would hear just mentions of it but in the book, I feel like Meg was vital to the storyline and as it progresses, it shows that Meg is still a big character of the book not just the recurring. Reading Meg’s journals, Ryden’s flashbacks of her, and how much they bring up Meg are how she became so significant in the book.
This character development of Ryden was what I love most about this book. In the beginning, he was so stressed since he hadn’t have some “father” experience in parenting as he tries to calm Hope down from the wailing and still has been in grief about Meg’s death. But in the end, he became a pro with nurturing her and he didn’t have the need to go see his father for parenting advice, which I don’t get why he still does when her mom said that he left him as he was a baby. But yeah he is a dad currently with a new family and knowing the ways a father takes care of a baby/child are a bit different than what the mom does when it comes to taking care of a baby, it explains everything about that I guess. But he didn’t in the end, which I’m curious to see when he did see him but it’ll be alright if Ryden never gets the chance of meeting his dad. And another thing about his transformation is that he moved on with Meg. Now knowing that he read the 3 journals with the checkmarks, and knowing that he’s moving backwards instead of forward about Meg, he finally let it go at the scene where he has to be the one to let go of her ashes.
The only thing I was a bit disappointed with is that even though Ryden’s mom and Ryden have a strong family bond with each other, I didn’t get to see the mom as much as I wanted it to be. Again with Meg becoming an important person, with Ryden’s mom, it’s vice versa from it. The parents in every book have known to not occur as much in the book. And even though Verdi get the mom to be around more often then the parents are usually in in their book, I don’t think it was enough to make me think that she’s substantial to the novel.
I enjoyed the romance between Ryden and Joni. If you don’t know about Joni, she works at the same place Ryden works at and comes out very cool and collected. First of all, I like that Verdi gave a little diversity to it though a bit sad with not showing that she’s Mexican, but coming from a school where I see many people with different races, you’ll wouldn’t see their whole culture he/she is from just a person you’re friends with or just by looking at him / her. So at the start, Joni helped Ryden from him meeting his ex-girlfriend and best friend again. Then they were getting to know each other and were playing a few games, and it was a nice way to how their relationship is going so far. Then comes to that point where they were making out and then trying to unbutton his / her jeans and I’m like okay that’s enough now and it was good thing they stopped there as I said that. I didn’t expect to happen in the book though about the unbuttoning.
SPOILERS coming up!!!!
So the story. When you first read the synopsis, it is very interesting. Teen pregnancy and parenting in a teenage boy’s mindset instead of a girl’s. Very intriguing to see and read. But after reading this, I had the same reaction with the baby above this. The ending changed everything about what I think about the book. From when I hear that Meg give the child to Ryden on purpose and used him and blamed him for her cancer treatment, to when Joni found out about Ryden’s life more, it really changed how I feel about a few characters. First, Meg. It starts out feeling so sad for her death since I find her very sweet and innocent. Then the plot twist andI just want to know why would you sabotage his perfect life when you wanted to leave a “legacy”.
Then comes Ryden making his soccer team lose the big game he was waiting for in the first half of the game, Ryden quitting the team since his coach told the recruiter that he has a daughter, Ryden trying to make Shoshanna unbutton his jeans, Dave finding out and punching Ryden so many times Alan leaving him for his new girlfriend, and Joni finding out about Ryden’s secret that he didn’t want Joni to know since he want to be the old himself, before Meg, making Ryden so f***in’ messed up now. Whew! That was hurricane of spoilers there. The coach was the one Ryden did not go to UCLA, which he shouldn’t be going into his business and two that Dave he leave him as his best friend like that since he and Shoshanna became boyfriend and girlfriend. I mean they should know better. They’re old enough to understand a lot at least. I mean this is how the story goes so I’m not really mad with it, but because it just came in so unexpectedly and I didn’t really want it to be so surprising because it made me have no words with what just happened.
So even though the second part of the book really change things up, it didn’t really affect how much I like this book. I still like it and I have a few debacles about it, maybe a bit from the surprise but still, I like it. I’m giving it a…
Cover and Premise –
Results – (4 Stars)
So we are giving away 2 copies of What You Left Behind (over). I definitely want to recommend reading this if you want a book so realistic and emotional. So here’s the link to this awesome giveaway is down below so enter if you want to win a copy.
If you didn’t win the giveaway, it’s okay. You can always buy the book in one of these online book-selling sites.
Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dog. Visit her at www.jessicaverdi.com.
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