This is a pretty raw and real read about a boy coming to terms with a responsibility he never wanted and a decision that will change his entire life. Ryden has to decide if he is going to man up or run away, and readers will absolutely understand why that is a real struggle. What you left behind is unique for its story and for its honesty. If you like your protagonists conflicted and your situations fraught with emotion, consider adding this book to your TBR list. This book is available on 8/4/15.
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?
This was a hard, honest look at a really difficult situation, and it was beautifully done. Reality is often harsh, and the author holds nothing back with Ryden’s character. He is, at times, resentful and selfish and, at others, optimistic and naive. He makes decisions about his daughter’s care that others will judge as terrible, but they absolutely ring true for someone in his situation. Adults struggle with these responsibilities, so it is reasonable that a high school senior would, too. While I did want to turn away when Ryden’s world got overwhelming, the message was absolutely worth the journey. The book is nicely paced to keep the momentum in the story going. The characters were well developed and as real as any I’ve seen. Primary caregiver teen dads are pretty rare in the YA book world, and What You Left Behind fills that gap nicely. This book will appeal to readers of both genders, especially fans of John Green and Ned Vizzini. It also will probably get you Nick Sparks a little excited, too – cancer.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.