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What We Left Behind

3.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,133 ratings  ·  452 reviews
From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love may not be enough to conquer all.

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published October 27th 2015 by Harlequin Teen
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Jasmine Scholz Someone who is gender non-conforming and doesn't feel they fit within the gender binary…moreSomeone who is gender non-conforming and doesn't feel they fit within the gender binary(less)
Crystal The main body of the novel happens during the protagonist's freshman year of college. Some of the action also happens in the final years of high schoo…moreThe main body of the novel happens during the protagonist's freshman year of college. Some of the action also happens in the final years of high school. I would classify it as young adult contemporary.(less)

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Average rating 3.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,133 ratings  ·  452 reviews

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Emily May
May 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
This might be my most disappointing read of 2015. I have been so excited for this book. There are so few books out there about people who identify as genderqueer that I couldn't wait for this book to be available. But it did so many things wrong.

Firstly, I knew early on that this wasn't going to get more than three stars. It read like a textbook or essay discussing and informing the reader about being transgender and being genderqueer. The story itself - about Toni and Gretchen's relationship -
Jessie Lee
Jul 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
I read the ARC of this book, and I'm really disappointed in it. I think I would've liked it, except . . .

The genderqueer representation is not good at all. First, (I'm going to refer to the genderqueer character only as T through this review so as not to spoil things) T does the WORST thing that reinforces the WORST stereotype about genderqueer people. T acts like a hipster "babydyke" (another character's word, not mine) and goes around calling everyone by gender neutral pronouns, until the very
Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)
May 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: arc, abandoned
This is not positive representation of what it means to be genderqueer. If you were attracted to this book in part because Toni is genderqueer, What We Left Behind will only leave you disappointed and enraged because it is used interchangably with being trans and generally treated as a transitional stage or a place you are when you aren't certain, not as its own gender identity. Repeatedly, characters use the wrong pronouns for someone, get corrected, and continue to use the wrong pronouns anywa ...more
Jun 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: queer-lit, buddy-read
I agree with this review in every respect. Still, I will try to elaborate on my thoughts.

This book is problematic in more ways than I can describe. Do NOT look to this book to educate you on the trans spectrum or the queer community in general. This is not good queer representation, even worse genderqueer "representation" (if it can even rightfully be called that), and I would encourage you to avoid it at all costs. This is Glee in novel form; it wants to be a catchall for ALL THE CHARACTERS
Sue (Hollywood News Source)
This book will contain spoilers, and quotes from the book.

When a book opened up with a relatable litany such as these:

You’re bound to think, “Oh, hell yes. This shit might be good.” It better be good.

However, What We Left Behind drastically failed in every standard that I was highly holding itself into. There are a lot of offensive and alarming situations that made my skin crawled.

There is a prominent character in the story, named Caroll. He is gay, and he keeps using transphobic and lespobi
Charlotte Annelise
Aug 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018-read, dnf
The writing in this book is quite poor – I cannot finish it.
Apr 23, 2015 marked it as reviews-say-run-forrest-run
Another YA book by the fabulous Robin Talley and it's involving not only homosexuality but transsexuality?

Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Review to come

Okay. I've been looking forward to this review, mainly because I have a lot to say. So lately I've been reading a lot of LGBTQ to broaden my horizons. Unfortunately, I haven't liked many of the books in that genre. This book was one of those books.
Plot: So this book was about a lesbian couple who basically have their entire lives planned out: together. The two girls names are Gretchen and Toni. Toni is struggling to find out who she is, and identifying as genderqueer, because she d
Megan  (thebookishtwins)
I received this free from the publishers via Netgalley

All quotes are from my arc edition and may be subject to change

Toni and Gretchen are the perfect couple. They never fight and are expected to be together forever. But then college comes along, Gretchen to NYU and Toni to Harvard and they are sure they'll be ok. However, the distance does put a toll on their relationship. Toni is genderqueer and when T finds a sense of belonging with a group transgender upperclassman, Gretchen struggles to fin
Hm. Hm. Mixed feelings about this one, enough that I'm not really sure how to rate it at all.

My first impression was: holy shit, we have come a LONG way since I was a teen! A non-binary character who's on a journey! Happy queer teens dating in high school and having realistic dating feelings! This is new, and neat.

Less thrilling: you've got a whole group of (presumably) extremely smart, politicized trans Harvard students and not one of them says, hey, dude, you know the whole pronoun thing? U
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbtq, ya
Hahahahaha I am SO glad to be finished with this book.

I loved Talley's first book. Lies We Tell Ourselves had a few issues in terms of race representation, but I was able to get past most of those and focus on the story and be swept up in it and then get too emotionally involved and have a mini breakdown. It was fine. I was fine with it. But What We Left Behind rubbed me the wrong way the entire time I read it.

I am cisgender and have always identified that way, so I cannot entirely speak for h
Miranda Kenneally
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book reminded me so much of what it felt like to leave high school and go to college.
Rashika (is tired)
***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

I don't really read New Adult. It's not because I have something against New Adult, I mean I've read and loved several New Adult novels, my problem is that I never feel like I am being represented in New Adult. I go to college and here is a truth that people won't tell you: college is all about being angsty. The angst doesn't magically disappear once you get into college. You aren't magically transformed into an adult. There is angst, l
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Although it was super fun to read about queer characters, and for the main focus to be discovering your identity and romance, I thought that the characters got way too bogged down with labels and putting themselves into a specific box, when there are no boxes! I appreciated reading about the struggle of finding something you identify with, but maybe there's such a thing as being too self-aware, and it might be best to just let yourself be yourself without trying to justify it to the universe. ...more
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
I think I understand why people are so upset by this book, but in my opinion that's because they're misunderstanding T.
(view spoiler)
Amber (Books of Amber)
This review was originally posted on Books of Amber

Lies We Tell Ourselves was one of my favourite books of the year last year, and when I found out that Talley's next book would be about a girl who is a lesbian and a character who identifies as genderqueer, I was incredibly excited. Unfortunately, I was more than a little let down by What We Left Behind, and the reason for that lies with the character of Toni.

There are two main characters, Toni and Gretchen, but What We Left Behind focusses most

This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, and I really had high hopes for it. But, dear god, I could not stand this book. And I have a lot to say, so sit tight:

To me, this is NOT a good book for genderqueer representation… or ANY representation for that matter, because despite this book being filled with queer characters, many of them are so excruciatingly ignorant and problematic. Seriously, I expected so much more from a novel that’s supposedly LGBTQ+-friendly, but this book was
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
A heart-breaking but important story of first love and self-discovery from one of my favourite new young adult authors. What We Left Behind follows perfect couple Toni and Gretchen as they attempt a long-distance relationship during their first year of college. But as Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, begins to consider transitioning from female to male, the cracks in their relationship begin to grow.

What We Left Behind is a difficult book to read and enjoy, because it’s not a happy book. I r
Sarah Marie
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

1 star

Toni and Gretchen are a couple like no other. They don’t fight or have conflicts. Everything is perfect. Then things start to change drastically. Toni and Gretchen are in different states for their first year of college. Gretchen and Toni don’t want to be another statistic of couples not working on for long distance. Toni identifies as genderqueer and prefers not to use pronouns to define gender. Gretchen doesn’t really understand Toni’s GQ status, but su

Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was overall, a really good, amazingly written, informative, educational story about two people who love each other. I really liked reading how Gretchen and Tony grow as characters and how they evolve as people. They are definitely flawed humans, as we all are, and I think other readers may view that as problematic but I don’t. Tony doesn’t represent every genderqueer person, so they should be allowed to question their gender, and how they identify and they should be allowed to not be sure w ...more
Read this review and more on my blog!

I received an eARC of What We Left Behind from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review - thanks to MIRAInk and NetGalley for letting me read this book early!

Check out my review of Robin Talley's debut, Lies We Tell Ourselves , here.

Last month I read Robin Talley's debut novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, and with her third novel, As I Descended , being one of my most anticipated reads of 2016, I think it's safe to say that Talley is an author I've been k
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
* I will be using the name Tony and he/him pronouns for him throughout this review because that is what Tony has decided to use at the end of the novel.

I really feel that this book should not be marketed as having a genderqueer main character. Not only does it show a horrible representation of what it means to be genderqueer but Tony thinks several times about how he doesn't like the term genderqueer.

That I'm definitely somewhere on the transgender spectrum, and that even though I've spent hours
Apr 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
This book was so normally and plainly written and boring that I, to this day, still can’t remember if I finished reading it or not. In fact, I have no idea what this book is even about?
Sep 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
I've never written a review before, but with this book I felt I had to, simply because I don't like rating books badly without explaining why. I have read the many bad reviews for What We Left Behind before I've read the book, but sadly I already had it at home and was also kinda curious if it really is THAT bad. (Spoiler: It is.) I'm extremly disappointed and also angry, because I think What We Left Behind is very harmful, considering that people read it who know nothing about genderqueer and t ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: quiltbag, arc, na-na-na
With What We Left Behind, I’ve finally finished/DNFed every single book I picked up during BEA week last year. It only took a year. But hey, it’s still an accomplishment. What We Left Behind was one of the books I was most excited to acquire but then I accidentally ended up shuffling it to the bottom of the stack. Then, color me surprised to discover when I went to mark this currently reading on GR and I saw that the reviews were terrible. Well, I really liked this one, but I think it’s importan ...more
Ashley Owens
Jun 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: queer, library-loans
This book had some seriously terrible writing. Ick.
Marci Laevens
Jan 11, 2022 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book. My favourite thing was the fact that everyone was unsure…that seemed real to me. They are confused and selfish and say the wrong things even though they’re trying to say the right things. I didn’t like that none of the characters’ parents were supportive 🤨 Such a hard thing to go through without the love of those that are supposed to be there for you. Good book. I recommend.
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5???? I have a problem with a good chunk of the characters in this book AND a lot of what happens. (Carroll's character is a straight-up asshole and nothing he does is okay.) But I do think this topic is important, especially for YA - so I'm definitely glad I read it. ...more
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I live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby's sleeping, I'm probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine's character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

My website is at http://www.

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