Friday, August 14, 2015

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

Ryden Brooks' daughter is six months old. At seventeen, he is struggling with how to be a father when he has never known his own as a possible role model. Hope constantly cries whenever she is in his care but is a good baby for everyone else. Senior year and soccer season are getting ready to start and Ryden hasn't figured out how he is going to make it all work with child care. His single mother helps him with Hope when she isn't working herself. He works a part time job at Whole Foods and is holding out hope that he will be offered a soccer scholarship at UCLA. Hope's mother, Meg Reynolds, stopped her chemotherapy treatments when she discovered that she was pregnant. Ryden and her parents all begged her to have an abortion, but she refused. Meg died shortly after Hope's birth. Meg's parents have nothing to do with Ryden or their granddaughter. Ryden feels like everyone blames him for Meg's death and has pulled away from his friends since his daughter’s birth. He finds a little bit of comfort in reading the one journal of Meg's that he has but his heart is broken when he looks at their daughter who reminds him so much of her mother.

With the start of school, Ryden begins to try and assimilate with his classmates. He finds it hard to juggle all of his responsibilities and make it work. When Meg’s parents refuse to even open their door when he knocks, Ryden is at his lowest. Meg's sister, Mabel, gets word to him and comes out to meet him down the street at the corner. She gets to meet her niece for the first time and immediately falls in love. She also gives Ryden the one journal of Meg's that she had. She warns him that it will not be an easy read. Her parents have placed all of Meg's things into storage. As he begins to read it, Ryden thinks that she left a journal for not only the two of them but for her best friend Alan as well. Ryden begins a ruthless search to find more of her journals and see what other clues she many have left behind for them.

When Ryden meets the quirky Joni at his job, he begins to come out of his self imposed shell. Joni doesn't know the "baggage" that Ryden hides and he wants to keep it that way. But as Joni begins to make strides into Ryden’s life, he finds that his secrets cannot be hidden and may find a way to heal not only his broken heart but relieve his guilt over Meg’s death.

Will Ryden locate the father he has never met? Do Meg's parents ever take an interest in Hope? Did Meg leave a journal behind for each important person in her life? Can Ryden make his dreams of UCLA a reality? Will he find his footing as a father? Does he ever forgive himself for Meg's death and go on with his life? Will Joni stick around after she discovers Ryden’s secrets?

Visit Jessica Verdi’s website.

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