Published by: Sourcebooks Fire on August 4, 2015
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
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?
It breaks my heart to review What You Left Behind. As a huge lover of Jessica Verdi’s previous books I was RIDICULOUSLY psyched for this one and thought it would be a slam dunk. In fact, I had zero doubts.
Even when I started reading What You Left Behind, I still had zero doubts. At first, I was loving it! But somewhere around 50%-ish, it collapsed. There were three major reasons, some more forgiveable than others.
1. Ryden… take care of your damn baby.
This is the most forgiveable of the three. Ryden made a few bad and stupid decisions with regards to his daughter, Hope.
- He avoided spending time with her.
- He didn’t make an effort.
- He tried to dump Hope on other people (not permanently, but roped other people into watching her, etc.).
- He sent her to cheap, scary ass daycare.
While I hated Ryden’s decisions, I kind of forgave him for it. I got where he was coming from (not actually, I wasn’t a teenage parent, but I could imagine). He was a stupid teenager who suddenly became a father. He couldn’t cope with giving up his whole life (college, sports, his dreams, etc.) for her. So I get that he kept putting himself above Hope. It’s maybe not the best choice, but I understand why he kept making it. Plus, these shitty decisions were necessary for his character development.
2. No offence, Joni, but I don’t like you.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t like her.
She’s just one of those characters I never clicked with. When it comes to romance, that’s kind of a must for me. I can’t get behind a romance if I’m SERIOUSLY not clicking with one of the characters. It was a major case of I’m just not that into you.
3. What the actual fuck was that??
Oh god, here’s the big one. The one that tanked the whole story for me. And sadly, it’s one big fat spoiler (boo).View Spoiler » [
At the end, we find out that Meg got pregnant on purpose.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK???
She wrote in her journal admitting this, and spouted a bunch of bull shit about wanting to leave behind a legacy.
LEGACY MY ASS! Here’s the ugly truth of what went down:
- She got intimate with a man. He said, “Oh crap, I forgot a condom,” clearly worried about pregnancy and STDs. She lied to his face by saying she was on the pill, because she was INTENDING to get pregnant, all while knowing she was going to die.
- She got pregnant and kept acting like it was some big mistake.
- She gave birth and died (as she claimed to know would happen all along).
- She intentionally left Ryden behind as a single, teenage dad.
She went into this whole thing KNOWING she was going to leave Ryden as a single, teenage dad. She knew he had dreams to play sports and go to college. She literally DESTROYED those dreams.
Lying to someone and using them to get pregnant is bad enough. That’s horrible. But when you do it KNOWING that you’re going to also make them a single parent.. what the bloody fuck is that? She wanted to create a legacy but knew she wasn’t going to be around to help raise it.
I can’t even.
This was just one of those things there was no coming back from. It clouded my opinion of the entire story. It’s like I saw red and then couldn’t see anything else. I hated Meg and her spoiled asshat decisions with every fibre of my being.
Oh, what could have been…
What You Left Behind wasn’t a horrible book. I liked it a lot at the beginning. I like Ryden’s struggle—it felt super real and I could feel for the poor guy. It was a heart wrenching, confusing situation for sure.
I also loved Ryden’s mother—she was easily my favourite character! She was so incredibly supportive and probably the exact definition of a “cool mom”.
But there were a few things (#3 in particular!) that just destroyed this book for me. My enjoyment slowly sloped downward, then plummeted.
Have you ever had one character or event kill your enjoyment of an entire book?