Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 4th 2015
Source: Netgalley, Free for Review
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ItÂ’s all RydenÂ’s fault. If he hadnÂ’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead, heÂ’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And itÂ’s not like heÂ’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. SheÂ’s fun and energeticÂ—and doesnÂ’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 MegÂ’s journals only stirs up old emotions, and RydenÂ’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 canÂ’t let go of the past?
Sometimes, when I’m reading, I connect to a book on a very personal level. This book was one of those very personal reads for me. I don’t make a secret of it. I’m a cancer survivor and in March it will be 13 years. Now, at 20, I was a little older than Meg when I was diagnosed. I had just started dating the man who would become my husband but I knew I loved him even then. Cancer is tough, it saps you of your strength. It makes you feel completely out of control. However, maybe the worst part of cancer is having to watch your loved ones watch you have cancer. In this book, we only get to know Meg through her journal entries and through Ryden’s memories but I felt like Jessica Verdi wrote her spot on. This book brought back a ton of memories for me, good and bad. It was a very emotional read.
Now, that isn’t to say that I agree 100% with Meg’s decisions in this book. I don’t. I wouldn’t have done the same things that she did. However, I can understand why she made the decisions that she made. Cancer is obviously terrifying but it also causes you to readjust your priorities. Suddenly everything you care about and your life’s goals can be flipped on their heads.Â It doesn’t mean that Meg was in the right, but I definitelyÂ understood how she felt.
I also really empathized with Ryden. It was heartbreaking to watching him struggle after loosing Meg. He suddenly has grown up responsibilities that are in conflict with his desires for his last year of high school. Part of growing up is learning to make sacrifices and its not different for Ryden. Unfortunately everything just hits him at once.
I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary. Its not my preferred genre. However, if you are going to read just one contemporary novel this year, you should read this one. Jessica Verdi’s characters are realistic and sympathetic. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she has lost someone to cancer. She has a true understanding ofÂ Â the emotional toll a serious illness can take on a person. What You Left Behind was a beautiful novel about redemption and forgiveness.