What You Left Behind ARC Review -- READ THIS NOW!

What You Left Behind | Jessica Verdi
Release Date: August 4, 2015 | Sourcebooks
Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 320
Edition: Kindle
Source: Publisher

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?

I received a review copy courtesy of the author/publisher. This does not affect my opinion or views regarding the book whatsoever.

All My Single Daddies, All My Single Daddies.

What You Left Behind was one of those books I KNEW I was going to adore. It was a completely different dynamic from what I'm used to reading, and I whole-heartedly appreciate Verdi for cracking open a new shell in YA. By switching up the gender roles, she allowed us readers to experience a refreshing and incredibly accurate depiction on a very common situation in today's society.

Ryden Brooks is hands down my favorite male character . . . ever. He's a star soccer player, enjoys reading from time to time, (Toni Morrison btw) a stocker extraordinaire at Whole Foods, and is a future prospect to UCLA, but it's his predicament that made me love him the most. As you all know, Ry became a single father after is girlfriend Meg passed away from Cancer. Everything happened so quickly, that he had zero time to prepare or plan, (not that it would've made much of a difference) and in a blink of an eye, his once normal life was turned completely upside down. 

When The Wind Blows, the Cradle Will Rock.

To be honest, I was super nervous this story would be way to cookie cutter for my tastes. This was my first novel by Verdi, so I wasn't sure how far she liked to test her limits, but she surprised me in such a good way. As a parent myself, I was truly able to sympathize with Ryden and his situation. Our main character struggled to come to terms with his reality. One moment he was Mr.Popularity, (the baby didn't change that at all actually) the next he was Mr.Dad, going through the dilemma of balancing his home issues, work, school, and a social life. 

If that wasn't depressing enough, we follow Meg, Ry's girlfriend as she lived out the rest of days through various personal journals. I became teary-eyed more times than I'm willing admit, because she just felt so . . . REAL. We only get snippets of her in flashbacks and journal entries, but the concept was done so well, it felt as if she was just as present as all of our other characters. But don't let all of this fool you, this story has some pretty bright moments, and here is where my favorite character comes into play . . . Joni.

Maybe I'm Amazed.

Joni was one of those girls you just have to be friends with. She has such a great aura about her, that she could lift the spirits of just about anyone. When she first stepped onto the scene, I just knew she'd be the ' interest ', but I was surprised to see that a relationship didn't build right away. There was plenty of sexual tension, (hehehehe) but I just loved how it was never AWKWARD between the two. Ryden was super laid back, but with her Latina sassiness, quirky personality/style, and down to earth demeanor, it was no surprise 
that these two became such great friends. 

Other than the amazing cast of characters, the aspect of this story that I enjoyed the most, was Ryden's growth as a character. We were truly able to witness him go from a bit of a selfish boy, to a young man well on his way to becoming an outstanding father. his reactions to many situations didn't surprise me, and I completely understood where he was coming from, but it was so good to see him turn things around, and put others first. Verdi delivered a beautiful novel about self-discovery, sacrifice, and keeping the faith when all odds are against you

What You Left Behind is hands down one of the best books I've read in a long ass time. It's a strong contender in the YA genre, being incredibly diverse, well-written, and emotionally driven. It's an inspiring and uplifting story wrapped with a heartbreaking bow, so if you're looking for a story that's lighthearted, full of prancing fairies, pixie sticks, and bubble gum, you damn sure won't find that here . . .

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