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What You Left Behind
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What You Left Behind
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Jessica Verdi, the author of My Life After Now and The Summer I Wasn't Me, returns with a heartbreaking and poignant novel of grief and guilt that reads like Nicholas Sparks for teens.It's all Ryden's...
Jessica Verdi, the author of My Life After Now and The Summer I Wasn't Me, returns with a heartbreaking and poignant novel of grief and guilt that reads like Nicholas Sparks for teens.It's all Ryden's...
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  • Jessica Verdi, the author of My Life After Now and The Summer I Wasn't Me, returns with a heartbreaking and poignant novel of grief and guilt that reads like Nicholas Sparks for teens.

    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. 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?

    "Ryden's story is a moving illustration of how sometimes you have to let go of the life you planned to embrace the life you've been given. A strong, character-driven story that teen readers will love." –Carrie Arcos, National Book Award Finalist for Out of Reach

About the Author-

  • Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dog. Visit her at www.jessicaverdi.com and follow her on Twitter @jessverdi.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    May 1, 2015
    A teenage father struggles to cope with grief, guilt, and his daughter. When Ryden falls in love with Meg, he thinks the biggest challenge is her melanoma. But then Meg gets pregnant and forgoes chemotherapy to have the baby, only to die just before giving birth. Now he's got baby Hope to care for, guilt and grief over Meg, and a million other worries, all realistically detailed by Verdi. How can he manage school, a job, and a baby, let alone get a soccer scholarship to UCLA? Feeling like he's failing as a father is just the straw that breaks the camel's back. Only Joni, his quirky, cool co-worker, helps keep his mind off his problems-because she doesn't know about any of them. But if Ryden doesn't deal with his grief and guilt, he won't be able to be a good son, a good boyfriend, or a good father. That's why finding three of Meg's journals, ones she left for him, seems so important. But will they hold the answers he needs? This combination of teen-pregnancy and sick-teenager tropes works thanks to Ryden's blend of maturity and selfishness. His candid voice is endearing, and although his present-tense narration at first seems like every other teen novel on the shelf, the granulated iteration of baby details helps to illuminate the crushing burden he feels. Other characters are also well-drawn, and the plot moves along tidily to a satisfying conclusion. Verdi balances her plot elements deftly in a read that could have gone terribly wrong in less sure hands. (Fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from June 1, 2015

    Gr 9 Up-Ryden Brooks is making the most of his senior year as the star soccer goalie with his beautiful girlfriend Meg on his arm. He has a promising sports career, with his eyes set on a scholarship to UCLA, until it all comes crumbling down. Meg gets cancer and is pregnant. While the protagonist is riddled with guilt, wanting to take care of the situation, Meg feels the opposite and goes against all advice, thus writing her own death sentence. Hope is born, and Meg passes, leaving Ryden and his single mother to pick up the pieces; Meg's parents wants nothing to do with them. The teen is thrust headfirst into fatherhood, meanwhile working a summer job at Whole Foods where he meets Joni. She knows nothing about his past and awakens something in Ryden that he thought was long buried. Verdi eloquently details the trials and tribulations of being a single teen dad, Ryden's feelings of guilt over Meg's death, and his budding feelings towards Joni. The author weaves a mystery amid the chaos through the uncovering of a series of journals that Meg left for Ryden, her sister Mabel, and best friend Alan. Verdi holds nothing back, shedding a realistic light on Ryden's situation, his decisions, and their very real consequences. His voice is spot-on and doesn't sugarcoat the harsh realities that he faces. It isn't often that a book nails the male teen voice as well as Verdi does in this work. VERDICT An excellent addition to YA collections.-Erin Holt, Williamson County Public Library, Franklin, TN

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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