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What You Left Behind

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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?

358 pages, Hardcover

First published August 4, 2015

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About the author

Jessica Verdi

8 books399 followers
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 dogs. Visit her at jessicaverdi.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jessverdi.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 505 reviews
August 27, 2015
This book is about a cancer-stricken teenaged girl who died sacrificing her life for her unborn baby and a teenaged single father, and it's probably the best form of birth control in a book that I've ever read.

Which isn't to say it's good. It's not. There's nothing wrong with the writing. There's nothing wrong with the story. This is just my personal opinion, and call me heartless if you will ("she's calling a girl who died of cancer stupid! Omg! Burn her, burn her!"), but this book is about teenagers doing what teenagers do best: making the worst decisions ever. And remember, I, too, was a stupid teenager once upon a time. I'm not condemning teenagers. I'm condemning a complete lack of common sense by the main characters, who happen to be teenagers.

You might agree with me or disagree with me, because the topics with which this book deals, namely, teenaged pregnancy and the decision to sacrifice a life for that of an unborn child, is bound to be highly contentious. This is merely my opinion of it.

Addendum: In my opinion, the decision to raise a child should not be made lightly. It should be made by consenting adult(s). A child deserves to be raised by parents who are emotionally responsible, who are financially stable, who are ready to bring a life into this world, who are prepared to love the child.

In my opinion, loving a child means giving it the best life possible, and a child should not be brought into the world without giving it the best possibilities of having a good, healthy life.

So there's this awesome, popular young high-school couple. Meg and Ryden. Meg is a brilliant student, beautiful to boot. She has a bright future in front of her. Ryden is popular; a fantastic soccer player. He is on his way to a full-ride scholarship to UCLA. They've been in school together since middle school, but Ryden never really notices the shy, quiet Meg...until one day when he finally notices her. They fall madly in love. Life is perfect.

Except Meg has cancer and is on chemotherapy. And Ryden and Meg made the decision to have sex without a condom. Meg finds out she is pregnant. Against literally EVERYONE's wishes, Meg brilliantly decides to stop the chemotherapy so she could have the baby. It's only 7 months of no chemotherapy so she could have a baby. What harm could that do?!

And so our brilliant scholar 1) had sex without a condom, 2) stops chemotherapy so she could 3) be a teenaged mother. Brilliant decisions. Brilliant.

Surprise, surprise, 7 months of chemotherapy when you've got full-on cancer is serious fucking business. Meg has the baby. Meg dies. Meg's parents want nothing to do with the baby, ironically named Hope. Now Ryden is a single dad, trying to take care of a baby despite knowing nothing about being a dad (never having had one of his own). He's on the verge of losing his scholarship to UCLA. He might not even be able to go to college. He blames himself constantly for his girlfriend's death.
It’s not that I blame Hope or want her to go away or anything like that.

I just wish I’d realized that Meg’s birth control pills weren’t going to work because of all the chemo. I wish I’d used a condom. I wish Meg had listened to me and gotten the abortion—I wish I’d fought even harder for that. Because if any of those things had happened, Meg might still be here.
Two lives destroyed. Boom.

Oh, but there's a new life, a baby! A baby who will grow up with a dad who barely knows what to do with her, a baby whose grandparents neglect her. A baby who will never know her mother. A baby who will grow up knowing her mother sacrificed her own life to save her. A baby whose dad's life has been ruined because of her. A baby. Because that's worth two young lives' destruction.

Thank you, but no, thank you. Flame me if you want. Call me heartless if you want, but for me, this book was an unending stream of idiocy. Do I feel pity? Of course I do. But it could all have been so easily prevented.
500 reviews2,414 followers
October 29, 2015
Ladies and gents, I am speechless. What You Left Behind was so good that it knocked the socks off everyone within a 5-meter radius of it. I'm pretty sure my pet unicorn lost his socks, too.

I'm not sure if my review will justify how awesome this book was, but let me give it a shot. *deep breath*

First off, we have one of the most realistic male narrators I've ever come across. Goodbye, annoying heroes who think about sex for 3/4 of the book! Sayonara, guys who insert a curse word in every sentence they say. Adios, brooding, abusive assholes with troubled pasts! And hello, Ryden Brooks!

Ryden acts like a normal teen would--he's stubborn, confused, and kind of just there without making a huge deal out of everything. Weird or not, I kind of appreciated how his entire life didn't revolve around his kid. Verdi took a risk showing us that yes, children are precious and need attention, but to some people, they aren't everything. It's not an ideal situation, but it's truthful and it happens.

Verdi manages to make the story both realistic and emotionally investing. I felt all sorts of things, ranging from ohmigosh dying of shippy feels! to nooo! (in a good, please-don't-do-that-I-beg-you kind of way) and everything in between. Yes, I did rage--but for the right reasons. And yes, I cried both happy and sad tears. Maybe even at the same time...

The romance definitely had an impact on this. The romance between Ryden and Joni was perfectly sweet, with a touch of angsty, which you guys know I adore in my books. It was paced perfectly--not too slow-burn that you just want to pull your hair out because of all the sexual frustration, or quick that you'd get grossed out. It's smack-dab in the middle. I also loved Joni's feelings towards Ryden being a teen dad--again, not ideal, but very realistic. I would probably have acted the same way in her shoes.

Another thing I have to mention is how much I adored the presence of family in this book. Ryden's mom was gloriously supportive and loving. She was the kind of mom you wish you'd be. Joni's family didn't play a huge part in the book, but you could easily see how much they respected and cared for her even in those little scenes with them that we're shown.

Can I also give bonus points for Verdi having a gorgeous Korean side character named Aimee? I am expecting more gorgeous Aimees in future books.

My unicorn Percy says go forth and read the book! Or else he won't shit any rainbows for you.

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Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
838 reviews3,753 followers
February 15, 2021

Actual rating: 2.5 stars

"Why don’t I ever seem to know what the right thing is? I hate you, brain."

Warning : It's been really, really difficult for me to gather my thoughts about this book and I put a lot of me in this review, because I needed this personal insight to express what worked and didn't work for me in Ryden's story. Please feel free to disagree with my opinions.

What You Left Behind was such a realistic, infuriating and heartbreaking young-adult story - I loved what I think the author was trying to say but I didn't enjoy the story.

First of all, I loved that the issues weren't sugared, even if I can see how people will maybe feel uncomfortable with it : it deals with abortion, raising a child alone, loss and family bounds. I loved how realistic and daring it was : daring because sometimes I get the impression that authors don't dare to talk about this kind of subjects because they are, by essence, dividing people, especially in America (forgive me for this possible simplification : it's only how I perceive your public debate, because we just don't have this kind of debate in France - not on that level anyway).

Jessica Verdi has the guts to offer us a different kind of story, and for that, I'm grateful. Sometimes life is more complicated than right or wrong. It's my personal opinion, so take it or leave it, but I will never think that there is a right or a wrong answer when it comes to abortion. To me it's a matter of personal choice, and I will never deny the right to abort. And if there isn't any abortion here (obviously, because Ryden is a single father), yes, they thought about it. Yes, I understand why. Yes, for me this book is asking the right questions. Ryden is such a believable and realistic character : oh, no, he doesn't grow up right away, and the choices he makes are sometimes messed-up. Now, do you really think that people are always able to change in a heartbeat, at seventeen? I don't. So, yeah, even though he annoyed the crap out of me sometimes (more on this later), even though I wanted to shake him, I understood and cared for him at the beginning - until I didn't anymore.

What you need to know is that Meg's pregnancy killed her, and that she knew it was meant to happen. So, yeah, Ryden is mad and resentful - he still is, even though his daughter is here. So if you feel it could be a too big issue for you, don't read it, because Ryden is realistic and don't act like he's been touched by grace because he became a father. He's immature, SELFISH, heartbroken, somewhat delusional, and does mistake after mistake.

► I certainly didn't agree with all the choices Ryden made, especially when it comes to his little daughter.

OMG you can't possibly imagine the number of times I wanted to YELL at him TO GO TAKE CARE OF HIS DAUGHTER DAMMIT!!

He infuriated me. He maddened me. You want to know the truth? Call me a cold-hearted bitch, but in the end, I kind of hated him.

But the fact is, I didn't need to agree with him, because it's not my story : It's Ryden's , and I accepted it as such. Here's a real coming of age story, where the main character evolves. Here's a character I can say, without doubt, that his flaws are fucking REALISTIC.

Sadly, I didn't care about the romance.

Let's get this straight : if some readers found weird and even shocking that Ryden was able to fall in love with another girl seven months after his loss, I didn't, and that's not WHY I didn't like the romance.

I didn't find it shocking because I lived it. And like I've said to these judgmental people nearly seven years ago : don't try to understand how an heart can react, because you can't. Trust life.

This book is about closure, the one we don't always seek but that we need to move on, and when Ryden read Meg's journal it's what it felt like to me : searching closure, getting ripped of the stupid guilt we feel when we're the "survivor". I always wondered if people realized how much they keep the guilt alive when they acted as if it was abnormal, cold-hearted to start a new relationship after a loss. Trust me, we're already well aware of the hidden rules that say that you can't be in an healthy relationship less than a year after a loss. Oh, of course, people don't openly say that you can't be in a relationship. Nah. People say that it's for the best, that they're worried about you and your possible confusion (that people think that we can just mistake a love for another is beyond me).

But the truth is, they don't know shit. That's why I absolutely ADORED that Jessica Verdi dared to deal with such a secretly sensitive subject as love after loss, and yes, I wanted to ship Ryden and Joni hard. On this, I'm on the life team. Always and forever.

However, as much as I wanted to care about their relationship, sadly, the romance didn't work for me, mostly for 2 reasons :

1) We don't quite get enough Joni time to care about her as a character and in my opinion their love-story is only sketched here and stays on a superficial level.
2) The lying : It took way too much time to Ryden to tell the truth, and I didn't like the fact that their whole relationship was built around a LIE. And what lie! She doesn't even know that he has a daughter during most of the book! Of course it induced unnecessary drama, and I have a thing : I loathe unnecessary drama, especially when it's created by miscommunications. It drives me crazy.

But what leads me to give this rating is the fact that I didn't enjoy my read. Trust me, I can handle infuriating and even evil characters (Jorg! I love you!) and the darkest parts of the human mind don't scare me (in books. They don't scare me in books) but I need to find a balance to enjoy a book, whether it's humor or endearment and I never managed to do this here. Oh, yes, I felt many emotions, I have to give it that : Anger, despair, sadness, annoyance, oh and did I say anger? Yeah? The only moments I felt something else where the passages with Ryden's mother (who rocks) and when Ryden was taking care of his daughter (so rare).

I have to take into account that it took me ages to finish it, since I couldn't stop putting it on hold. I almost always read books in a day or two, so, yeah, not my usual reaction here. The truth is, I always got a feeling of uneasiness when I tried to resume it and it disturbed me. No, scratch that : I WAS SO FUCKING MAD IT HURT. Because REALLY? The day-care scene? It destroyed me. I tried and tried and tried and tried to find the empathy in me to understand Ryden's reactions and on some level I could, but putain de bordel de merde. There's a moment guy you have to GROW THE FUCK UP. It's hard, it hurts like hell, but you have to. I couldn't stop picturing all these kiddos in the room crying and how he relied on everyone to take HIS responsibilities and - I just couldn't handle it anymore. I had to stop. Again. Until I took the time to finish it and then, frankly? I hated the last 30%. I hated everything that went downhill, and at this point I was so much pissed that I hated the resolutions too. It was too late for me.

Of course what made me lost it is a spoiler (because I'm lucky like that) so I can't talk about it here - the only thing I can say, and it's my honest and strong opinion, is this : YES, sometimes to have a child is SELFISH. People keep telling me that NOT having a child is selfish but REALLY GUYS? I don't live in a fairytale. I work with children. I see children who are neglected every day. They suffer from it. Enough of this bullshit.



A 3 stars rating would have meant that I liked it. I didn't, not really, and in the end I felt depressed and angry. But then, I'm still able to acknowledge the risks Jessica Verdi took, and Ryden's voice was really realistic, so, yeah, 2.5 it is, for now.

[Last Updated : July 2016]

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Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,444 reviews7,531 followers
August 25, 2015
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

This review is brought to you by . . .

Houston commercial photography

I read this one over a month ago, but it’s taken that long to remove my eyeballs from where they rolled in the back of my head so I’m just now getting around to a review.


Okay, so here’s me during my lunch hour whilst reading What You Left Behind . . .

Houston commercial photography

Good sammich, turrrrrrrrrible book.

This is the story of Ryden, a senior in high school who is left to raise his newborn son after his girlfriend died from cancer . . . .

Houston commercial photography

Yeah, seriously. I am NOT a “DNFer” so I read this entire thing, but it lost me pretty much straight from the jump with that premise. I can do young love and high school sweethearts who know they’ll end up together forever (heck, I was a child bride myself), but when the storyline is a teenaged girl who has both a whoopsie pregnancy and cancer that WILL. STRAIGHT. UP. KILL. HER. if she doesn’t get it treated and opts to have the baby THAT HER BOYFRIEND WILL THEN BE FORCED TO RAISE EVEN THOUGH HE DOESN’T WANT IT?!?!?!? Ugh, all I can say to that selfish b*&^% is . . .

Houston commercial photography

Now some might say an accidental pregnancy is as much the dude’s fault as the dead girl’s – and I would normally agree with you, except it turns out our dearly departed Meg was full aware of the fact that her birth control would fail due to the chemo drugs, but didn’t bother telling Ryden and got pregnant ON PURPOSE basically to leave a part of herself behind . . . .

Houston commercial photography

After she died her parents didn’t want anything to do with the poor little baby who never asked to be brought into the world by these two dipshits anyway which left it all up to daddy Ryden to “do the right thing.” Nope. The right thing would have been to give that baby up for adoption. Ryden was a typical teenaged boy. He was worried about how to get into college, and playing soccer, and banging Joni – the new chick he meets at his part-time job. But really? You have a BABY now young man – a baby you spend almost ZERO time with so your banging days are over . . .

Houston commercial photography

I can tell you, it’s NOT this. Next!

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
July 11, 2015

No, seriously, guys. 

Pre-order this. Right now. Oh, no, you don't - don't give me that wary glance. I'm not telling you this just because I want you to drain your hard-earned money, because I care where your hard-earned money should be spent --- on worthwhile books.

And guys, it can't get any more worthwhile than What You Left Behind by Jessica-fucking-fantastic-Verdi.

I mean, when do you usually read about a contemporary novel about a seventeen-year-old male teenager who suddenly found himself a father of a newborn girl, whose cancer-stricken mother (his girlfriend, Meg Reynolds) died before the baby was even born? Look at those emphasized words. Look at them carefully - isn't that the recipe of "holy-shit-that-sounds-intriguing-as-hell"?

Guys, this is an emotional, heartfelt, and heart-breaking story of a young hero whose life took a confusing and uncertain turn at a time when he had his future set out for him. What are you to do when it feels like your girlfriend died because of you? What are you to do when you have a young one depending on you, when you don't even know what to do with yourself? What are you to do when so many things are crying for your attention - your schoolwork, your job, your soccer practices - when you aren't even able to take care of your damn kid properly?

This book made me feel all sorts of feelings. It felt like a realistic portrayal of someone who didn't know what to do and was crumbling from all the pressures and responsibilities. It was so refreshing to see it from a male perspective... usually when it comes to teenage parents, we all get it from the eyes of the mothers. Heck, we even have TV shows for that, but what about the teenage fathers? What do they go through? How do they feel about it? It was an intimate journey witnessing Ryder's struggles and insecurities in light of his life's recent developments, and how he coped with his conflicting feelings and bottled guilt.

I did have one problem, though...

I know that this was mainly about Ryder's growth. He had to learn how to forgive himself, to move on, and to make life worth it whatever his circumstances. However, I was quite disappointed that there wasn't much portrayal about his being a father and how he was going to cope with it... Hope, his baby, was such an integral part of why he was so lost, and yet, Hope was mainly by the sidelines. By the end, he realized what it meant to be a father, but it wasn't really shown. It felt like his romance with a new girl took more pagetime than being with his daughter.

That's my only complaint. I would have loved more father/daughter time since I'm a daddy's girl, too.

But otherwise, this was great. The narration was very personal and very realistic, full of emotions that would easily connect to any reader. I love how parents were an important part here, too, as the support to their kids as they tried to find their path in life. The character development, Meg's presence even thought she wasn't physically there anymore, and the idea how everything in life is one big mess but it's up to us on what to do with it.

Seriously guys, pre-order this book. You won't regret it.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,000 reviews35.9k followers
July 26, 2015
Young Adult Best Book Club Choice* .... Of the year! in my humble opinion!

Hate it or love it... or somewhere in the middle, Jessica Verdi packs in big issues worth looking at...
Teenage Pregnancy
Teenage cancer
Teenage cancer with pregnancy
To abort or not to abort
Birth control .... The truth that nobody is talking about
Lies .....The lies that nobody is talking about
Under age parenting
Single -underage dad
Parents and grandparents... What's their responsibility -- their role?
......and how might grandparents from both sides of the child, interact? Be of support? Does an underage dead girl's parents have any responsibility towards a baby who died by her before she was born? If so... I sure as hell didn't see anyone step forward.
Financial concerns, work, education, household chores, food prep, hobbies, sports, friendships, 'love interests' ....[how do all these things help raise a child]....
What the F#%*K to do when you are being pull in a zillion different directions?
Still yet to come: is another hidden secret which may be 'most' important topic to talk
about...(but to say, would be too big of a spoiler).

Did I like this book? Who cares..,( doesn't seem like the point). I'm thrilled I never faced 'any'
of the situations in this book...yet... all of them are as real as birds fly, dogs bark, and babies cry.

Kudos to Jessica Verdi. People will be talking about this novel....as they should. Emotions
ought to get stirred - positive or negative . This is a contemporary story which 'seems'
as if it's been told before ... But .... 'Jessica raised the bar'. Took this story to new horizons.

Thank you to Sourcebooks, Netgalley, and Jessica Verdi for the opportunity to read this.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,723 reviews1,277 followers
July 20, 2015
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Fire and NetGalley.)

“Well, guess what you left behind, Meg? Nothing but misery and pain and regret.”

This was a good YA contemporary story about cancer, and being a teen parent, which also had an interesting mystery aspect.

I felt quite sorry for Ryden in this story, he’d lost so much, and was pretty shell-shocked at the way he had become a single teen parent, and the changes to his life that this bought. I also felt really sorry for Meg, having cancer at such a young age, and not getting to see her daughter grow up was awful.

"I didn't take her life away from her.
She took mine."

The storyline in this was pretty good, and I liked the mystery aspect of Meg having left diaries for Ryden to find, and having secrets that she possibly took to her grave. I was also interested to see what Ryden would do with the rest of his life with his daughter in tow, and how he would move on with his love life as well.

The ending to this was pretty good, and I enjoyed this story overall.

7.5 out of 10
Profile Image for Beatrice Masaluñga.
1,137 reviews1,662 followers
August 10, 2015
Thank you Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

What You Left Behind is an emotionally driven and realistic story. This is my first book by Jessica Verdi and her writing style is captivating and beautiful. The story tells about a single teenage parent, Ryden Brooks. He held a huge responsibility of being a parent and raising a child at a young age. His girlfriend, Meg Reynolds, passed away because of cancer. Instead of receiving treatments, she chooses to conceived their child. He was devastated and blames himself for Meg's death. As a senior high school student, it's stressful to him to take all this and as well as prepare for his future to get a scholarship.

He wasn't truly over her and still mourns her death. What's good in this mystery is that Meg wrote journals for him. He thinks that these journals will help him to become a good father for Hope (his daughter). There are bits and puzzles along the way. At his work, there was this girl, Joni, captures his interest. She was optimistic and fun to be with. Being with her enlightens Ryden whenever he feels stressed and down but he is scared that she might not like him because he has a daughter.

I love how this is being told in the male perspective. Most of the YA books I've read are written in the female perspective and this is really refreshing for me. You can just feel Ryden's emotions and my heart breaks for him to carry such responsibility he wasn't ready for. Life isn't constant as the way we planned. It can change anytime and we need options. Of course, there are times we cannot do it alone. Sometimes, we need help to get through it. Another thing I love is Ryden's relationship with his mother. Strong relationship and I like how his mother gives him a sense of independence. She supports him no matter what. I must say some parts made me teary-eyed. It is a good ending and I love the protagonist's character development.

I am surely looking forward to reading more of Jessica Verdi's novels. I am definitely recommending this book. It was such a beautiful realistic story that touched my heart.
Profile Image for Booknut 101.
849 reviews922 followers
August 22, 2015
I found the Holy Grail of romance books!
praise photo: praise4-thisisquality_zps3c7002dc.gif
Yep, you read correctly. Guys I found a book where the girl actually has a spine. Where - when she's treated badly - she tells the guy how disappointed she is in him, and how she can't be used and abused by him. And she walks away.

And no, no, don't shoot me yet. That wasn't a spoiler! A lot happens in this book - deep and insightful stuff, plus some weird and wacky things along the way. But I just wanted to mention how much I love, love, love, love Joni.

Joni is life. Joni is a goddess amongst YA women! She takes no nonsense, is a sweetheart, lives life to the fullest and is so raw and real and awkward that you'll fall in love with her from the very first time you meet her. Trust me. I'm #TeamJoni!
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But before I continue fangirling over Joni...I wanted to bring up something.

And by 'something' I mean how very Paper Towns-ish this book felt.

Hey, I liked Paper Towns! So you won't find me too upset. Actually I'm not quite sure how I feel about the similarities to be honest.

In case you're wondering what those similarities are:
- Guy is obsessed with a girl
- Girl is no longer around
- Guy starts reading something/things that girl left behind, looking for clues
- Guy thinks the clues will help him understand the girl and why she did the things she did
- Guy's friends are initially on board with helping him search for clues
- Guy's friends include one nerdy guy + a girl who was close to the girl he loved
- Eventually Guy's friends get sick and tired of searching for clues
- They don't believe the clues exist
- Guy puts everything in his life on hold to search for clues alone
- Finally discovers something
- Ends up realising that he never really knew girl he loved

Aaaand those a just a few of the ones I could recall.
that's a lot photo: and thats a lot Vinny andThatsalot.gif

But apart from those similarities, the book was very original.

I felt like it did a great job outlining the burdens faced by a single dad, especially a single teen dad. His relationship with his mother, a single mother, was one of the highlights of the book. Her unwavering support mixed with her desire for her son to take on his responsibilities and become a man made her a character worth reading.

And Joni was golden.
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What You Left Behind is a book that speaks to each reader differently.

It connects with the hardships you've experienced in your life. Each reader is going to approach this book with a different frame of mind. But every reader will finish this book with a fresh perspective on their life.

What is suffering? What makes an adult? What is true love? What is sacrifice? How do you say goodbye?

Jessica Verdi explores these question in a book that will have you laughing through your tears :)
Profile Image for z.
19 reviews11 followers
December 24, 2017
I am just.....really appalled. Like. Truly. I had high hopes for this book, because it truly did stand out due to the plot and the fact that the protagonist is male, but BOY was I disappointed. I think the biggest let down was the writing. It was basic, to say the least. Verdi's style lacked any flair. There was no creativity, and it certainly didn't spark much of my imagination. I understand it's "harder" for a female writer to write in the mind frame of a male, but that doesn't mean you should make the language so dull and simple that you can barely connect with the main character. It's almost as though I was looking at his world through his eyes but in black & white; you get the picture, but not the picture in depth.

As for the plot, I really thought there should have been more emphasis on his relationship with his baby, Hope. You don't really see much interaction between them, and he's constantly complaining about her, and he just isn't too likeable, in all honesty. I DO, however, really like his Mom. Her character could have been developed more, but she seems like this really cool mother that you get along with and share secrets with and who is always there for you. I like how she was disciplined with Ryden and made sure he was the one bringing up his daughter.

And last but not least...Joni.

From reading other reviews, I get the vibe that Joni is well liked. I mean, from all the characters, she has the most developed and built personality. She's outgoing and fun and badass, and she likes books. I mean, she's a great person, but again, I don't feel like I KNOW her. You know when you read a book and you feel as though you really, really understand a character? I don't understand her. I wish her wonderful, crazy family was seen more, and I wish we didn't throw in pointless back stories of gossip at her school just for the sake of it. It didn't really develop the plot or tell me much about Joni, either. It was just pretty pointless, really.

Overall, I wanted more from this book which I didn't get, and that's a lil annoying, but it's okay. Also, the bit where Alan references Love The Way You Lie by Rihanna and Eminem is so cringey, I had to shut the actual book for 5 whole minutes. Ugh. Never again.

Profile Image for Sophie.
1,154 reviews437 followers
December 31, 2015
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way impacted on my view.

This book was just angst, with a side order of even more angst. I mean, that was not a surprise, at all, but there weren't many happy, fluffy moments. However, What You Left Behind was still an enjoyable read, if 'enjoyable' is the right word to be using about a cancer book.

Ryden was a really great narrator for this story. He was far from perfect, and didn't hide that fact. Let's be honest, what 17 year old boy, or girl really, who's basically guaranteed a scholarship to play soccer (football) at uni, will want to be left as a single parent to a new born? Before Meg got pregnant, they were happy. Yes, she had cancer, but she was undergoing chemo, and it seemed to be working. Now, he's lost his girlfriend, has a baby, and is struggling to juggle childcare, work, soccer practise, and school. I can completely understand his anger and frustration - even a saint would be. To top it all off, he thinks baby Hope hates him, and that he's an awful father.

I liked the side plot of Ryden looking to find Meg's hidden journals, even if they did bring to light some really difficult issues. At times, I even hated Meg for what she did, but I could also kind of understand her thought processes. Hands down, though, I don't think Ryden was to blame for anything that happened prior to the start of the book, and hated the times when he, and others, thought this. To me, Ryden was just a struggling parent, trying the best that he could to placate his daughter, whilst also struggling with the grief of losing his girlfriend to cancer. By the end of the novel, Ryden was the best father ever, and Hope was a wonderful, happy, little baby girl. What more could you want?

Joni and Ryden's relationship was sweet, though the secret keeping left a taste in my mouth and I couldn't fully enjoy it. Again, I understood Ryden's reasoning for keeping secrets, but that still messed everything up in the long run. These main characters, and the side character's, such as Alan, Mabel, and Deanna, brought the story to life, and showed that being a teenage parent is difficult, and that life is not perfect, in the slightest. I think this was the main message of the story, and Verdi did a wonderful job in conveying this.

On the whole, What You Left Behind was a really well written, and thought out story. Not the happiest of topics, it didn't shy away from the hard issues, and I think that's the wonderful thing about modern YA fiction. Through these types of books, teenagers can learn about difficult problems, in a way that's safe and also enjoyable. If that type of book appeals to you, this would be the perfect addition to your shelves.
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
982 reviews113 followers
October 6, 2015
What You Left Behind is an excellent example of a well-written and very realistic young adult book in a guy's perspective. I definitely want to read more books like this.

This book revolves around Ryden. Six months ago his girlfriend, Meg, died giving birth to their daughter, Hope, because she refused another round of chemo therapy.

So obviously this book deals with some tough subjects. Usually I'm kinda on the fence about these type of books but I really liked this one. Most books featuring teen parents are in the girl's point of view but with What You Left Behind it was in the guy's. I loved that. It was so good.

Another thing I loved was how realistic it was. It really was like how I expected a seventeen year old single dad would think. Ryden struggled a lot and there was definitely no sugar coating the hard moments but I really liked it.

Ryden's mom was the best ever. She was so supportive through it all. She needs an award!

My only minor point was the romance between Ryden and Joni. It wasn't like I didn't like the girl but I just couldn't get on board with it. It felt almost like the story could've done without the romance between them and just let those two be friends. But it is what it is and I still thought it was a really good story.

My favorite thing, however, were the entries from Meg's journal that were about what Meg was thinking and feeling through it all when she was alive, that Ryden had found. I loved that.
Profile Image for Lisa (lifeinlit).
695 reviews459 followers
August 8, 2015
I have this weakness when it comes to stories involving teen pregnancy and/or teen parents. I’m not sure what it is, since I was never a teen parent myself, but I’m very drawn to them. When I saw this description, I knew this was a book I had to read. A teenage single father? AND written by Jessica Verdi?! YES!!

Ryden is a hot mess. His girlfriend, Meg, recently died, leaving him to raise their daughter alone. With the help of his mother, Ryden is a single father just trying to make sense of life. He’s in high school, a star soccer player, and trying to figure out how, as a single father, he will be able to follow his dream of going to a prestigious school on a full soccer scholarship. He’s filled with so much anger over how Meg’s life ended. She had cancer and was undergoing chemo until she found out she was pregnant, and unilaterally decided to stop the treatment immediately, knowing this would likely kill her. Ryden, is in doom and gloom state, stumbles across a journal Meg left behind and realizes that there may be others. He sets out to find any remaining journals in hopes that somehow this will help him decide how exactly to be a better dad, to be a parent his daughter deserves, one that would have made Meg proud.

“Why does everything have to suck so bad? Even when you think it’s getting better, it’s not. Life’s building up suckiness, getting ready to hit you again, at the worst possible moment.”

I absolutely loved reading a story with a male MC. And to make it even better… a teenage single parent! I’ve never read a book like this before. It was so unique, extremely eye-opening and outright heart-breaking at times. Such a wonderfully strong story that will have your feels running the gamut from sadness, to hopeful, to outright furious. Ryden is the type of character that is easily hated on. He’s not getting any awards for Father of the Year, that’s for sure. But as a teenager who was thrown into this position, it’s also easy to feel for him and route for him to straighten out his life and learn how to grow into the person and father he should be.

“Finding someone you can really connect with is like winning the fucking lottery – it happens basically never, but if it does, you really shouldn’t blow it.”

Ryden’s friend, Joni, a free-spirit, always smiling, surprise to enter Ryden’s life. They worked at a store together, and Ryden instantly was drawn to Joni’s happiness and silliness that kept him smiling… something he hadn’t done in a long time. They had an instant connection. Since Ryden hadn’t moved on yet after losing Meg, they decide to keep their friendship strictly that. Nothing more. Having a friend like Joni was exactly what Ryden needed in his life. But… he was also keeping from her anything having to do with Meg or his daughter. Ryden’s completely dependent on Joni’s friendship to keep his optimism intact and on the right track… but how long will a friendship based on lies really last?

I loved Ryden, but I also loved the accompanying characters. I loved Joni instantly. Her free-spirit happy attitude was contagious. So creative, artistic, and making the best of life. Ryden’s mother was also very involved in this story. And I liked that she didn’t take over the raising of her granddaughter, but instead was patient and helped Ryden to do it on his own, refusing to enable him to lean too much on her. Let’s hear it for tough love!

I can see why some people may have a problem with this story. It’s not all fluffy and glitter like a lot of contemporary YA books. It’s raw, it’s emotional, and even disturbing at times. Ryden made a lot of bad decisions and even treated his daughter rather badly at times. He was lost and utterly clueless on how to be a good father. But the bigger picture isn’t just his immediate actions, which in my opinion are extremely realistic, but rather how he learned and changed and became a better person. This is a coming-of-age story filled with angst, heartbreak, and, eventually, hopefulness. I totally fell in love with Ryden and his story, despite my sobbing and outrage at times. Another strong book from Jessica Verdi that won’t want to be missed!

(Thanks to Sourcebooks for the review copy!)

Find this review and others like it at Lost in Literature!


Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,392 followers
June 14, 2015
The best thing about Jessica Verdi is that every single one of her books revolves around a totally instabuy premise I haven't seen before in YA, and then she executes the hell out of them. too. I loved this book and all its realness, and alllllll the messiness, and the way Ryden's character arc was handled...basically just everything.
Profile Image for Nicola.
229 reviews21 followers
July 28, 2015
If you're a big reader of YA books then you've probably noticed that there are a lot of books about cancer doing the rounds. There have been plenty of books about teenage pregnancy too. This book covers both of these topics but guess what? It is different. Jessica Verdi takes two overused topics and puts a fresh spin on them and creates an emotional, heart-wrenching story of death, fatherhood and learning to cope with the drastic curveballs life can throw you.

When Meg finds out she is pregnant she decides to stop her chemo treatments in order to keep the baby. Her parents disagree as does Ryden who thinks she should have an abortion so she can carry on with her treatment. But Meg has made up her mind and ultimately dies giving birth to their baby girl: Hope. Ryden is suddenly a single father trying to figure out how to bring up a baby whilst juggling school, soccer practice and a part time job. He takes comfort in one of Meg's journals and is convinced that she has left others for him to find to help him with his new life. Feeling alone and missing his old life, he befriends a girl Joni who makes him laugh and forget about his worries for a while. The only problem is that she doesn't know about Hope.

There are two main things that I loved about this book:

1) Teenage pregnancy and parenthood is explored from the perspective of a seventeen year old male who is a single father to a newborn baby. How often does that happen? Never. It is so refreshing to see the struggles of being a young parent from a male's point of view. Fathers are often forgotten about because they aren't the ones giving birth but being a parent so young affects them too.

2) The wonderful mother-son relationship. Ryden's mother was so supportive and present which was amazing to see. She didn't spend her time shouting at Ryden for having got a girl pregnant but instead she supports him and tries her best to make him see how good a father he can be.

I really liked Ryden as a narrator. He's angry, confused and frustrated and thinks that he's a terrible father. He isn't perfect either. I found myself being frustrated with him at times for not realising that he had to make sacrifices for his child. But really, it's understandable. One minute he's on route to a soccer scholarship in a top college and the next he's a single father at seventeen. Meg's parents want nothing to do with the baby which creates childcare and money issues. What seventeen year old wants to be thinking about the cost of day care when he can be at soccer training to earn his scholarship? I really, really felt for him. I loved seeing him grow and bond with Hope and take charge of his responsibilities.

His relationship with Joni was sweet but I didn't love it. I'm all for Ryden moving on in his life and being happy, which is completely what he deserves, but I would have preferred more time devoted to him being with Hope. I really liked it when he realises that he is already being a father and that he and Hope are going to be okay but I just would have loved more interaction between them.

What You Left Behind is an emotional and realistic portrayal of the topic which doesn't sugarcoat and I praise Jessica Verdi for tackling it from a fresh perspective.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
All reviews are also posted to my blog: Nicola Reads YA
Profile Image for Khulood.
206 reviews39 followers
June 23, 2015
What a refreshing change! This book is a win for me because of two main things:

1- a 17 year old MALE main character - There aren't many of those
2- a very supportive and stable parent - Most YAs have the stereotypical selfish/uninterested parent(s)

We start the book with Ryden, a 17 year old single parent, whose girlfriend died and left with a child. He is unprepared for the changes that occur in his life, beginning with having to take the responsibility for this child. He has a supportive mother, and a couple of friends who are always there for him. He feels like he's going to fail as a father because he didn't grow up with a father figure (as his mom was a single mother too). He is left with Meg's journals, and he feels that they are giving him strength, this leads to a search for the rest of her journals.

I liked almost all characters in this book, except for Meg and Joni. Both have equally annoyed me.

This is a very good read! Jessica Verdi has written something quite unique.

*This arc was kindly provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Profile Image for Kels.
315 reviews165 followers
January 10, 2016
This book is the REAL deal. The writing was spectacular, the plot and storyline had so much depth from page 1, the characters (especially the MC) were all organic, mult-dimensional and well-written, and this was one of the most believable YA contemporary novels I've read in such a long time... *sighs* what more could a reader ask for??

Oh, the feels are at an all time high!

Let me first say, that this book hooked me from page one, on the very first sentence:

"If there's a more brain-piercing sound than a teething baby crying, I can't tell you what it is."

Yeah, no fluff to be had there. Immediately, you're introduced to the main character Ryden, and his wailing baby Hope. Boy oh boy, did I feel for him quickly. He's a single teen parent in high school, struggling not only with the loss of his girlfriend, Meg's, death, but also with learning the ins and outs of being a new father, while maintaining some sort of a life in the process. And gosh, does he suck all around at being a parent. He's selfish and tends to put his needs first while doling out his responsibilites to his mom and just about anybody for space away from Hope. He's resentful, irresponsible, he's immature, he's angry, he's clueless and flawed, and practically wakes up making mistakes... *sigh* he's a teen, who doesn't know what the heck he's doing, but is still putting one foot in front of the other, stumbling along the way.

Ryden is real, he's not your hero protagonist, he's your everyday Joe, and I felt every one of his emotions. I connected and related to him in a way that I didn't know was possible (I mean, I've never even been pregnant), and his flaws/mistakes/ambitions were the patchwork that made him so believeable, and surprisingly, likable. I liked Ryden more than a lot, and I was rooting for him every step of the way. I loved how authentic he is portrayed in What You Left Behind and he has one of the best voices that depicts a high school teen faced with the responsibilities of raising a child. The author didn't shy away from making the MC so imperfect, instead she showcased an immature teen who still has a lot of growing up to do. Jessica Verdi added so much depth to Ryden's character, and even though his problems were piling up, I never once felt like I was sludging through a pity party. She gave him personality and spunk without making him into the angry, snarky, maudlin character. She presented his weaknesses and still made him a strong protagonist. She allowed him to suffer in pain, through hardships, through the unexpected. By no means did she sugar coat the physical and emotional responsibilities of raising a child, but she allowed him to be a teenager while doing it, and gave us a chance to watch him grow.

And can we just give a round of applause to Ryden's mother? She is a rock star, and an amazing parent. I loved the relationship that she and Ryden had. It was tough love, strong love, gentle love... definitely the good stuff and it was refreshing to read. (I get tired of wanting to shake fictional bad parents!)

The storyline was bewitchingly, and beautifully crafted. Jessica Verdi presented internal conflicts and external conflicts, almost immediately, and the pacing was perfect. The ended provided a resolution that wasn't all rainbows and ponies, but more bittersweet, and true to life. The writing was engaging, and really involved the reader, and was touching on perfection.

*clutches hand to chest* This book is everything, and certainly took me by surprise. Definitely a new favorite.
Profile Image for Ashley.
667 reviews716 followers
July 24, 2015
2.5 stars

Man, it kills me that I didn't love this book. :( I adore Jessica and her other books, so this literally breaks my heart!

The biggest thing that kills it for me is what we find out at the end...

Profile Image for Melanie.
119 reviews
January 16, 2016
I absolutely luuurrrvveddd this book. It's so realistic and awesome. Definitely recommended.

*Review to come*

You can also find this review here: https://booksaremychildrenblog.wordpr...

What You Left Behind is a great realistic fiction novel, it center around Ryden who is left to raise his daughter after his girlfriend Meg dies of cancer. What immediately got my attention with this book is the synopsis, it centers around a teenage boy with a baby usually books like this center around teenage girls with babies, but the author took a different approach with this book.

My favorite part of WYLB is how the author genuinely creates a real teenage boy. Ryden didn’t feel like the author was struggling with writing him, the author does an excellent job at creating a real teenage boy. I really did like Ryden even though he had his faults he was truly an authentic character. Ms. Verdi did an excellent job at creating believable characters. My favorite character would have to be Joni, she was a great character and I loved her every time she showed up. The only character that I didn’t like was Meg even though she didn’t make physical appearance in the book, she came off as self-centered and sort of selfish. I really do wish we got to see more of Hope though and more of Ryden interacting with her.

I really did like the plot of this story and I would definitely recommend it.

*I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Saleh MoonWalker.
1,801 reviews272 followers
July 2, 2017
رایدن بروکز 17 ساله، تلاش میکنه که تکه های زندگیش رو کنارهم نگه داره ولی زیاد موفق نیست. مسئول این قضیه کیه؟
تعاریف و توصیفاتی که از رایدن با تمام نقص ها و کاستی هاش شده، واقعا زیبا و دقیق هستش و نویسنده شادی ها و سختی های والد بودن رو دقیق و با جزئیات بیان کرده. کتاب راه حل ساده ای برای شرایطی که رایدن داره ارائه نمیده و حتی اشاره نمیکنه که کدوم راه درسته و کدوم غلط و فقط به بیان راه های مختلف می پردازه.
در نهایت کتاب بدی نبود و توصیفات خوبی داشت. سرعت پیشروی متن هم متوسط بود.
Profile Image for Cassandra (Thebookishcrypt).
575 reviews52 followers
July 9, 2016
Ever since I bought this book last year, I've been obsessed with it. I've thought about it at LEAST twice a day since then. I've tried my hardest to not touch it because I knew, I KNEW, it was going to destroy me ever since I read the synopsis at Barnes & Noble. It was a constant elephant in my room and I could only avoid it for so long. Since I'm here writing this review, it means that I lost the battle of wills and have gone through the war of feels...
End note: I was as destroyed as I predicted.
There are two particular things you should know about me while reading this review:
1) If the story is about a single father, I'M ALL IN!!!! No if's, but's, or or's. That book will be plastered on top of my 'read and love no matter what' list of books. This book follows a single father, Ryden, as he tries to find the perfect balance that his new life while also trying to keep his soccer goals, high school, and work afloat.
2) Losing a lover to the clutches of death is my greatest, and only, fear. So of course, I was weary of this book. And if you haven't read the synopsis to this book yet, here's the worst part: It's bad enough Ryden has to raise a child at such a young age but he has to go through the grief of losing his girlfriend, Meg, to cancer...So not only is Ryden a single father, but he's a 'widow' of sorts as well.
Great. Now, tell me that this story is not a massive heartbreak waiting to happen. Not possible. Yeah, my heart was already ripped apart with the synopsis alone. Why did I buy this book if I knew that it was going to destroy me so, you ask? You can just pick up the phone and call me a masochist.
Anyway, the one prominent thing about this was the grief. God... the GRIEF!!! It was everywhere and I had no hope of getting away from it. Ryden's internal pain and struggle as life dealt him a bad hand was awful. There were so many quotes I wanted to write down that came from him for this review but I decided to let you guys experience their powerful blow yourselves. His thoughts with/about/to Meg were agonizing to read through. I felt the overwhelming grief down to my core and it's safe to say that I spent 99% of the story crying my eyes out. That may seem like an exaggeration but trust me, it's not. I didn't leave my room at all while reading because I was such a mess.
(I'm struggling for words here so if I sound repetitive or I don't make sense, blame it on the master skills of Verdi.)
Now, just because I love the book, it does NOT mean that I agree with how Ryden acted most of the story. The truth is far from it. I wanted to slap sense into that boy so many times that it was ridiculous. He wasn't taking his situation as seriously as he should, but, I did cut him some slack since heartbreak definitely makes people do terrible and stupid things. With that said, this made his character development something to appreciate and look up to. I didn't like Ryden's actions but his heart was beautiful to witness as it learned to open up to happiness while also navigating unraveling secrets that Meg kept from him. Meg was always writing her thoughts and everyday conversations onto journals so Ryden goes in search of 2 specific ones that she left behind. As soon as he goes in search of such journals, his life is flipped on its axis. Again.
This story was deeply emotional and the best thing was that it had an amazing ending. If it didn't I don't think I would be as appreciative of having finally read it. I'm immensely proud of how far Ryden has come from the start of the book. This was the first book I've read by Verdi and it definitely won't be my last!
5.5 stars!
Profile Image for Jasmine Pearl Reads.
158 reviews114 followers
May 9, 2015
Book: What You Left Behind
Author: Jessica Verdi
Finished Reading: April 17, 2015 (Friday)

Book Review:

*First of all, I would like to thank Sourcebooks Fire for the review copy in exchange for an honest review* Thank you so so much!!!
Ohmygosh! This book will be on the best-seller list in August. I swear!!! This was my first book by Jessica Verdi and I didn’t regret reading this!

The synopsis really caught my attention when I was reading it on Goodreads (you should check it out!). The narrator of the story is a male teenager named Ryden Brooks and I’m like, “WOAH! How will this person cope with his life now?”.

I loved the flow of the story. It’s a page-turner kind of book. You won’t like to put this book down (just like me). I ate my lunch very late because I really really want to read the chapter after the chapter that I’m currently reading and so on and so forth. Even though I’ve finished reading another chapter, i still don’t want to stop! (That’s how i got hooked up here!!!)

Each chapter is really mind-blowing and exciting! I got really hooked up with this book because there was some -sort of- mystery. Meg Reynolds was the girlfriend of Ryden Brooks and she loved writing stuff on her journals. Mystery? She left something for Ryden. Hidden journals.

Ryden can’t move on with his past because he kept remembering Meg. Meg died because of some complications during her pregnancy and she also had cancer. Ryden blames himself for everything. If he hadn’t made Meg pregnant, she would have not died. Sometimes, we need to accept things especially if it’s already there. We need to deal with serious stuff. Life isn’t just a game. No one wants to hurt other people but we can’t control nature. Cancer is a serious disease. Nobody knows when will be your last breath or what. It’s a matter of holding on till you can.
I didn’t expect much but Jessica Verdi is such a genius! Her book is such a masterpiece! This will be one of the most talked about book this year and I can’t lie about that. Jessica Verdi’s writing style is exemplary. I’m very sure that she won’t disappoint her readers and her fans. And now, I’m her #1 fan. This book became my instant favorite this year!

Hands down to Ms. Jessica Verdi!!!
Profile Image for Nikki S.
1,438 reviews64 followers
November 9, 2015
7/11/14: I said earlier this year that there were no books about a guy that had to raise a child on his own and lo and behold Verdi was already in the process of writing one! I am extremely excited to see how she portrays this critical topic! Thank you Verdi for uniqueness in YA!!!!!

EDIT 7/22/2015:

One day, way, way back in the day before I even knew about this freaking book, I was on Twitter and there was a trending topic going on about what we wished authors would write about. One of the tweets I wrote said I wished for a dude to be taking care of his child instead of the mother. I thought I was going to have to start reading more adult before I ever found a story like that. Until one day, almost a year ago I noticed this book on Goodreads.
Meg is gone and Ryden can't get over her. Why? He's the reason why she died. He got her pregnant and made her quit chemo. And now she's gone and he's stuck raising their daughter all alone. Until Joni comes along. But he's not ready for anything with another chick.... Or is he?
I knew from the start this book would pull on my heart strings, but I wasn't prepared for the way it slaughtered my feels. The amount of angst, love, grief, hate, and any other emotion you can think of is in this book and it makes it nothing less than AMAZING. There were so many times I had to put this book down because my eyes hurt from crying, I was so mad at one of the MC's, or I was embarrassed for someone. I think it had a perfect portrayal of what a teen boy would feel in this situation.
I was so happy when I read this book. Only because we always see a woman (no matter what the age) left behind with a baby. This is the one time that I've seen that there is a man left with a baby. Tack on to the fact that they were teens, it made the story all the more unique. To make it better, this entire book seemed so real. I could definitely see Ryden trying desperately trying to hold on to his old life and trying so hard to find someone or something to blame. He never really got a chance to grieve, so all that he did was let everything build up and build up. I felt so sorry for him. It took him so long to realize everything wasn't about him anymore.
As for the romance, I don't want to go too much into it to avoid spoilers, but Joni is exactly what he needs. I was so happy that he was able to at least have a little happiness because for the most part, Ryden was depressed. Getting him just a tiny bit of happiness was all I could ask for. As for Joni, she was adorable. A little crazy, but still super fun. I respected her so much for her decision and I really felt I would have done the same thing. For her to be thrown in that situation, she handled it as well as anyone in that situation would have and was completely dignified about the entire thing.
The best thing about this book is the lesson. Not only does it show what teen life is like with a child, but it gives light to how it is when one parent leaves and the other is left behind. To make it better, they are still in school. I don't want to say I was happy, but I was. I need this book to help show teens that kids are real life and these things happen with no protection. I can see myself and other librarians and teachers using this book to help teens learn more about teen pregnancy in school.
Jessica Verdi is one of my favorites when it comes to learning lessons and uniqueness in YA. She's written about teens not being afraid to be LGBTQIA, a teen contracting HIV, and now a male teen with a child raising her on his own. I love that she is not scared to put topics that haven't really been discussed into the world. Because of that, she's added herself to my "auto-buy authors." Thank you Verdi for going against the norm.
Profile Image for Kim at Divergent Gryffindor.
470 reviews132 followers
June 25, 2015
I went into What You Left Behind with huge expectations. I know I shouldn't have done that, but come on! The main character is a single dad, which is something that I've been waiting for, and I'm guessing a lot of other people have been as well.

The book started out with what I felt was an unnatural and tense tone, but got better a while later. I'm not sure if it really became better or I just got used to that tone, but it flowed more and more smoothly as the story went on. I was a bit disappointed at first, but as the story progressed, it began to live up to my expectations.

It seemed kind of weird that Ryder was able to love another girl after only seven months after Meg had died, but I think the journals and the other events in the book really helped Ryder find closure.

What I really liked about this book is how realistic the story felt to me. Ryder started out with no clue how to take care of Hope and he kind of despised the kid a little bit at the start. Then, as the story progressed, he learned to be more at ease with Hope, and he learned to treasure her, to become a father to her. I'm glad that things started and ended that way since I think that's what really happens. He is a single father after all, and Meg died conceiving Hope.

I really like how the plot in this book went as well. I loved the pacing of book - it was neither to fast nor too slow, but just right. I loved how things progressed and unravelled. The book was kind of predictable for me, although I'm not sure whether the author intended it to be that way or not. Either way, I still really enjoyed reading this book.

My favorite character in the book is Ryden's mom. Joni comes a close second, but the mom wins it all. There were times when it was clear that she didn't like Ryden's decisions regarding Hope, but since Hope is his daughter, she only supported Ryden and stood behind him; even helping him with the decision he made. She sacrificed a lot not only for her son but also for her granddaughter. At age 30+, that's really huge! She definitely wins a mother of the year award for me.

I like how despite Ryden blaming himself for what happened to Meg, this book is not full of self-pity and wallowing. This book is not centered on that, and it's more than that. It's about closure, family, friends and learning through one's own experiences.

"Even though life has been fucking hard lately and it's going to be really fucking hard for the forseeable future, … I love this baby. She's more than just Meg's legacy. She's my daughter too. I'm her dad."

What You Left Behind is definitely worth a read. I can't give it more stars because of the first few parts of this book, but I was really able to enjoy this one. It has such a unique story and I really connected with it. I even felt a bit teary eyed, which has not happened to me in a long time.

Overall, What You Left Behind is enjoyable and unique, and it will definitely be worth your time.
Profile Image for Claire (Book Blog Bird).
1,053 reviews38 followers
September 28, 2015
4.5 stars

This review was originally published on Book Blog Bird

What You Left Behind is the story of Ryden, a seventeen year old high school senior whose girlfriend has just died, leaving him the single parent of their baby daughter. Before this, Ryden had dreams of playing football (soccer-football, that is) for UCLA. Now, he’s changing nappies and learning about weaning. As Ryden desperately tries to reconcile fatherhood, schoolwork, football practise and work, he meets Joni, a girl who manages to forget all the crap he’s got going on and reminds him what it’s like to be young and carefree again.

Wow. I really enjoyed this book. I think the author has done a really good job of writing a male MC with an authentically male voice whilst making him readable for target-audience female readers.

Ryden was a perfect choice as a main character, and he was so well drawn it felt like I knew him. I loved the way he’d been put into an impossible situation and didn’t act like some martyr or self-sacrificing Perfect Peter. He was selfish and hated the fact that his entire world had been turned on its head and mixed in with all this was his guilt over Meg’s death and his attempts to care for Hope without resenting her. His relationship with Joni was well done (although is six months after his girlfriend’s death too soon? It felt a little bit too soon) and I liked the development between them as well as the inevitable shitfight when Joni inevitably finds out that Ryden has been hiding Hope’s existence from her (this shouldn’t be a spoiler - obviously she has to find out at some point!).

The story itself has enough facets to keep it interesting but doesn’t try to do too much. The ‘What You Left Behind’ of the title refers to a few things: Ryden, Hope and Meg’s journals and there’s also a nice mystery element to the story where Ryden tries to find Meg’s old journals to see what she was thinking in the months before Hope’s birth. The story is really well paced throughout, with a huge burst of action and drama at the end that kept me up reading well past my bedtime.

One thing, though - I did want to punch Alan Kang, Meg’s best friend, in the face. Seriously, if you’ve got some life-altering news to impart, you don’t do it just before someone is just about to play the most important football game of their career. And also, if you know that someone has been keeping secrets, you stay the hell out of it and mind your own business instead of blurting said secrets out all over the place. Idiot.

Still, despite Alan Kang’s social ineptitude this was a really good book: really readable with some great characters and a decent plot and I think there’s even some re-read value in there too. What more could a girl want?

I received a copy of What You Left Behind in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley
Profile Image for C. Maria.
315 reviews50 followers
August 15, 2015
I just loved this story. It's just amazing.

Jessica Verdi wrote such wonderful amazing characters. Even if the story for me was predictable I still loved it and wouldn't change anything (maybe just an extra chapter to know what Ry did with college, Hope and Jodi - like in 2-3 years. That will have been a good addition.)

I liked Ry character, he was strong and with all that was going on he did an amazing job even if he didn't realized it yet. He was so grown-up and did so much for Hope. (if I was in his shoes by day 3 I would have been such a mess).
He was so real, smart and talented and I was so mad that he couldn't do what he wanted (soccer) but he is a father and he loves his kid and he would do right by her. I like how Jessica Verdi captured such strong emotions and not so easy topics and this book and made it wonderful and succeeded in writing the most amazing male character I read in a while. He is a teenager and wants sometimes to be just that but he also manages to be a father and a loving one for that matter and doesn't give up.

This was a story about moving forward, growing-up early and dealing with real responsibilities and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when you feel hopeless and the reason that everything is the way it is because of you.

Life isn't perfect or easy but we have to make the most of it with what we have.
Profile Image for Tika .
149 reviews119 followers
August 12, 2015
Read Full Review Over At fANGIRLconfessions

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 . . .
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