Category Archives: What You Left Behind

Review: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

what youTitle: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


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?


What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi is an incredibly emotional and poignant journey of healing for lead protagonist Ryden Brooks. This seventeen year old single father is trying to be a good dad to his six month old daughter while struggling to come to terms with the grief and guilt he continues to experience over his girlfriend Meg’s death. However, Ryden’s biggest challenge is facing the reality that the hopes and dreams he has been striving for might no longer be attainable.

What You Left Behind begins with Ryden hoping to resume the life he had before Meg died and fatherhood. Summer is ending, soccer practice is starting and his senior year is about to begin. While most of his classmates are worried about prom and college, Ryden is trying to sort out babysitting for his daughter so he can clinch the soccer scholarship that is his ticket to a better life. However, juggling a teething baby, a part time job, soccer practice and homework is next to impossible and at this point, all Ryden wants is to feel like a normal teenager. Meeting his co-worker Joni Rios provides him this opportunity since she knows nothing about his past and although he knows that lying to her is wrong, Ryden continues to keep his real life a secret from her.

In many ways, Ryden is a typical teenager. He is a little selfish, he does not always think things through and he has a bit of an unrealistic viewpoint of his future. But these negative traits are outweighed by the fact that he is taking complete responsibility for his actions. He chose to keep his daughter and although he feels completely out of his depth with her, he is trying to make the best decisions possible for their future. Ryden is not completely on his own since his mom is more than willing to help out as much as possible, but at the end of the day, he is completely responsible for taking of his baby.

Ryden’s struggles are realistically depicted and his difficulties are compounded by the crushing guilt he feels for getting Meg pregnant. He has been so focused on caring for his daughter that he has not really come to terms with his grief over her death. The discovery of one of Meg’s journals leaves him convinced that she is trying to leave him a message. Hoping to find answers that will help him become a better father, Ryden is quickly consumed by his search for the other two journals he is certain she left behind. Will these journals give him the information he is hoping for? Will reading Meg’s thoughts help him heal or will they destroy the little progress he has made in the months since her death?

What You Left Behind is an extremely well-written young adult novel that touches on many relevant societal issues. Jessica Verdi does an absolutely outstanding job balancing difficult issues with sensitivity and the resulting story is one that will touch reader’s hearts. A heartrending, touching and ultimately uplifting novel that I highly recommend to readers of all ages.


Filed under Contemporary, Jessica Verdi, Rated A, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, What You Left Behind, Young Adult

Review: What You Left Behind by Samantha Hayes

leftTitle: What You Left Behind by Samantha Hayes
DCI Lorraine Fisher Series Book Two
Publisher: Crown
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 322 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A mesmerizing new thriller from the author of Until You’re Mine

Two years after a terrifying spate of teenage suicides, the remote village of Radcote has just begun to heal. Then a young man is killed in a freak motorcycle accident and a suicide note is found among his belongings. When a second boy is found dead shortly thereafter, the nightmare of repeat suicides once again threatens the community.

Desperate for a vacation, Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher has just come to Radcote for a stay with her sister, Jo, but the atmosphere of the country house is unusually tense. Freddie, Jo’s son, seems troubled and uncommunicative, and Jo is struggling to reach out to him. Meanwhile, Lorraine becomes determined to discover the truth behind these deaths. Are they suicides, or is there something more sinister at work? Finding answers might help Freddie, but they’ll also lead to a shocking truth: whatever it is–or whoever it is–that’s killing these young people is far more disturbing than she ever could have imagined, and unraveling the secret is just as dangerous as the secret itself.

Wicked, intense, and utterly compulsive, What You Left Behind confirms Samantha Hayes as a top thriller writer.


What You Left Behind by Samantha Hayes is an intriguing whodunit that fans of British police procedurals are going to LOVE. Unexpected twists and turns, a large suspect pool and lack of a clear motive make it virtually impossible to guess the perpetrator’s identity. Although it is the second installment of the DCI Lorraine Fisher series, the novel can be read as a standalone.

Detective Chief Inspector Lorraine Fisher’s vacation is anything but relaxing when she finds herself embroiled in a perplexing mystery while visiting her sister Jo. Immediately upon arrival, she learns distressing news about Jo’s marriage but most shocking are the changes in her nephew Freddie. He is withdrawn, moody and refuses to accompany the rest of the family on excursions. It is soon clear that something is deeply troubling him, but he refuses to reveal what that something is. Jo is deeply concerned about her son because eighteen months earlier, a cluster of teen suicides rocked their small village and the recent death of a homeless youth, Dean Watts, was also ruled a suicide. Her fears are compounded when another young man takes his own life and Jo grows increasingly alarmed about Freddie’s state of mind.

Although Lorraine is also worried about Freddie, she is enjoying her visit with Jo until she receives a disturbing picture that leads her to look a little deeper in Dean’s death. While she is at the local police station, the death of another young man is reported and she goes with the lead detective, DCI Burnley, to the crime scene. She quickly sees evidence that foul play might be involved and knowing that Burnley is known to cut corners, she cannot resist investigating on her own. Lorraine’s husband Adam joins her and just as they are beginning to sort through the clues, Freddie vanishes and they are pulled in two different directions as they continue trying to make sense of the prior deaths while at the same time searching for Freddie.

Freddie’s story arc is as fascinating as it is frustrating. For reasons that are never quite clear, he absolutely refuses to discuss what is causing his extreme distress and he continues to spiral deeper into hopelessness and despair. Things become even more complicated for Freddie when he tries to help a friend and he unwittingly puts himself in danger.

While the pacing of What You Left Behind is a little slow, it is an overall compelling novel. The storyline is quite suspenseful and Samantha Hayes’ clever plot twists and red herrings keep readers guessing how this terrific mystery will end. A jaw dropping revelation ties up all of the loose ends and brings the mystery to a stunning conclusion. It is an excellent addition to the DCI Lorraine Fisher series that old and new fans do not want to miss.

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Filed under Contemporary, Crown, DCI Lorraine Fisher Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Samantha Hayes, Suspense, What You Left Behind