Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi!

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Ever since I bought this book last year, I’ve been obsessed with it. I’ve thought about it at LEAST twice a day since then. I’ve tried my hardest to not touch it because I knew, I KNEW, it was going to destroy me ever since I read the synopsis at Barnes & Noble. It was a constant elephant in my room and I could only avoid it for so long. Since I’m here writing this review, it means that I lost the battle of wills and have gone through the war of feels…
End note: I was as destroyed as I predicted.
There are two particular things you should know about me while reading this review:
1) If the story is about a single father, I’M ALL IN!!!! No if’s, but’s, or or’s. That book will be plastered on top of my ‘read and love no matter what’ list of books. This book follows a single father, Ryden, as he tries to find the perfect balance that his new life while also trying to keep his soccer goals, high school, and work afloat.
2) Losing a lover to the clutches of death is my greatest, and only, fear. So of course, I was weary of this book. And if you haven’t read the synopsis to this book yet, here’s the worst part: It’s bad enough Ryden has to raise a child at such a young age but he has to go through the grief of losing his girlfriend, Meg, to cancer…So not only is Ryden a single father, but he’s a ‘widow’ of sorts as well.
Great. Now, tell me that this story is not a massive heartbreak waiting to happen. Not possible. Yeah, my heart was already ripped apart with the synopsis alone. Why did I buy this book if I knew that it was going to destroy me so, you ask? You can just pick up the phone and call me a masochist.
Anyway, the one prominent thing about this was the grief. God… the GRIEF!!! It was everywhere and I had no hope of getting away from it. Ryden’s internal pain and struggle as life dealt him a bad hand was awful. There were so many quotes I wanted to write down that came from him for this review but I decided to let you guys experience their powerful blow yourselves. His thoughts with/about/to Meg were agonizing to read through. I felt the overwhelming grief down to my core and it’s safe to say that I spent 99% of the story crying my eyes out. That may seem like an exaggeration but trust me, it’s not. I didn’t leave my room at all while reading because I was such a mess.
(I’m struggling for words here so if I sound repetitive or I don’t make sense, blame it on the master skills of Verdi.)
Now, just because I love the book, it does NOT mean that I agree with how Ryden acted most of the story. The truth is far from it. I wanted to slap sense into that boy so many times that it was ridiculous. He wasn’t taking his situation as seriously as he should, but, I did cut him some slack since heartbreak definitely makes people do terrible and stupid things. With that said, this made his character development something to appreciate and look up to. I didn’t like Ryden’s actions but his heart was beautiful to witness as it learned to open up to happiness while also navigating unraveling secrets that Meg kept from him. Meg was always writing her thoughts and everyday conversations onto journals so Ryden goes in search of 2 specific ones that she left behind. As soon as he goes in search of such journals, his life is flipped on its axis. Again.
This story was deeply emotional and the best thing was that it had an amazing ending. If it didn’t I don’t think I would be as appreciative of having finally read it. I’m immensely proud of how far Ryden has come from the start of the book. This was the first book I’ve read by Verdi and it definitely won’t be my last!

5.5/5 stars!

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