Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
Aug 4 2015 by Sourcebooks
Young Adult - Contemporary
What You Left Behind was on my radar because Estelle considered it a “buy it” book and when I saw it was on sale, that’s exactly what I did. It ended up becoming my first read of 2016 and it felt great to get my reading year started off with something this raw and honest. It’s really a unique perspective as we follow Ryden, a senior in high school and single father to a newborn baby. What struck me most was how Ryan’s voice came alive to me through the author’s writing. I could picture him, hear him and understand him so clearly. He’s been dealt cards no one his age should have to deal with it. He was a regular teenager who fell deeply in love with a girl for the first time and she with him. But that girl, Meg, also happened to be receiving chemo treatments for cancer. That is, until she got pregnant and had to stop. Ryden is plagued with this guilt that she died because he got her pregnant and in the aftermath, he’s juggling his grief, his need to get back to normalcy and learning how to take care of a baby. It’s a lot to handle. But there are people (and something else) in his life that are supporting him through all of this.

There’s his mother who raised him on his own and I loved their relationship. She’s younger than most moms (think Lorelai!) so she was this perfect mix of fun and knowing exactly when and how to push Ryden when needed. We also spend a lot of time with Meg’s best friend, who I adored. He makes a bunch of pop culture references that go over Ryden’s head but I totally got and chuckled over. Again, he provided much-needed humor and honesty to the story and Ryden’s life. But the other person who ends up playing a significant role is Joni. She’s a girl Ryden meets through work and for the first time in a while, he feels burden-less around her. She doesn’t know his past or any of the people connected to it. She’s fun and quirky without being Ms. Manicpixiedreamgirl and it’s easy to see why he’s drawn to her.

As for the “something else” I mentioned earlier, Ryden finds one of Meg’s old journals and he’s convinced that she must’ve left more for him to read. He becomes obsessed with his need to read her thoughts to help him understand her and how they ended up here. It’s heartbreaking because we get to see the innocent first love that existed between them but also reveals unexpected truths to Ryden at the same time. Through the entire book, my heart just ached for Ryden and his situation which is a testament to how real the author made each and every character feel in this book.

(No) reservations
I can’t think of any! It’s not often that I read books from a male-POV and it’s always a treat when the voice really does sound like that of a teenage guy. Very well-written.

Do I recommend?
Obviously the answer is yes! I was pleasantly surprised by this book and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

1 comment

  1. Seriously, What You Left Behind sounds like such a unique story! I also considered reading it because of Estelle, and I certainly want to read it even more after seeing your thoughts on it. It would be an honor to meet Ryden, and to read his story :)


with love,