Tuesday, August 4, 2015

GUEST POST AND REVIEW: Jessica Verdi, Author of What You Left Behind

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Synopsis: 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, and 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?

My review: I was fascinated by the idea of a YA novel written from the male point of view, especially by a female author. Jessica does a fantastic job of getting into the mind of a teenaged boy. Ryden has so much going on in his life--mourning his girlfriend, raising his daughter, holding down a job, going to school, being on the soccer team--and we get insight into his thoughts on all of it.

Sometimes I felt sorry for him, and other times I just wanted to shake him...much like how I feel about most ACTUAL teenagers. The entire cast of characters in this book are realistically written and very believable. Ryden's mother is always there to support him, but she also makes him be responsible for his daughter as much as possible. His friends are unsure how to react to him, with the exception of Meg's sister and Meg's best friend, both of whom are straightforward with him, good or bad. 

There are a lot of ups and downs to this story, but the ending was very satisfying. I'd love to read a sequel, several years in the future, to see how things are going, not just for Ryden and Hope, but for the other characters as well.

My rating: Four stars

My question: How different was it to write this novel from the point of view of the opposite sex?

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Teresa, and for your great question! What You Left Behind is my first book from the POV of a boy. I absolutely fell in love with Ryden as I was writing, and I felt like I really knew him. In so many ways, it was easier to write from his POV than from the POV of a female narrator as I did in my first two books. I think, because he's a boy and I'm not, I may have subconsciously felt more freedom to just take his character wherever it needed to go, because, since we were already so different, there was no element of "me" clinging to him. No "Well, I would or wouldn't do that," etc. So it became more of an “anything’s possible” process, which was really fun.

I'm glad to have written a book from the POV of a boy because there are plenty of boy readers out there who need to see themselves represented in literature, and as something more than just the love interest of the female main character. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a good, juicy romance!) There just seems to be a shortage of male narrators in YA lately, and that may or may not be related to the fallacy that “boys don’t read.” Boys absolutely read, and they need to see themselves on the page just as much as the rest of us do. I love that there’s a boy (and only a boy) on the cover of the book, and I'm hopeful boy readers will pick it up and find Ryden interesting and identifiable.

About the author
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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 jessicaverdi.com and follow her on Twitter @jessverdi.

1 comment:

Diane Coto said...

Sounds like a difficult read in a way. A teenager responsible for a baby.
@dino0726 from 
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