Book Link: Goodreads
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.
-What made you decide to write What You Left Behind?
Thanks for having me on your blog, Alexia! The idea for What You Left Behind was actually sparked by an article my husband sent me about a teenage girl who had cancer and was pregnant, and wasn’t allowed to make her own decision of whether she wanted to abort her pregnancy and continue her cancer treatments, or stop the cancer treatments and have the baby. Her parents chose for her (they chose stop cancer treatments and have the baby) and she died a couple days after giving birth, leaving the baby to be raised by her boyfriend. This isn’t exactly what happens in the book, but the issue of choice is one that is very important to me, so I wanted to write about that. And of course I was completely interested in the single teen dad grieving the loss of his girlfriend story.
I actually started drafting the book as a dual narrator (Ryden and Meg) story, while Meg was still alive. About 75 pages in, I realized that wasn’t the way to go at all (it would have been about a billion pages long, haha), and that this story should really be told by Ryden, and begin in the middle of his journey. I had to scrap those 75 pages, which definitely hurt, but it was absolutely the right decision.
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 http://www.jessicaverdi.com and follow her on Twitter @jessverdi.
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