ARC Review: What You Left Behind

Title: What You Left Behind
Author: Jessica Verdi
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Pages: 320
My Rating: 4 Stars

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 was given an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

 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.

4 what-a-satisfying-read stars

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