#IReadYA Week WoW: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

Here are a few reasons I look forward to reading this upcoming YA release:

  • Jessica Verdi is the author.
  • I’m a fan of pregnancy stories told from the guy’s point of view.
  • There appears to be a slight element of mystery.

What You Left BehindTitle & Author: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi

Release Date: August 4th, 2015

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Summary (From Goodreads):

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?

Books That Are a Breath of Fresh Air

I’m 33 weeks into my pregnancy, so I’m entering the lovely stage where I’m uncomfortable all the time and am finding it difficult to breathe. I was sitting on the couch reading my book, taking yet another deep breath, and thought, “I should write a post about books that are a breath of fresh air.” Since I’m often winded, I think it’s fitting 😉

I’ve included these books for a variety of reasons. I considered the way topics were approached, the way characters are written, the way authors deviated from the norm, etc. Which books would you add to this list?

Winger by Andrew Smith–Ryan Dean’s story was the first book I thought of because of how Andrew Smith wrote him. I’ve taught quite a few fourteen-year-old boys over the past seven years. Ryan Dean is written exactly like a fourteen-year-old boy and I love that. Too often characters are written with adult voices and that’s not the case for Ryan. I think it’s one of the many reasons why Winger has been such a hit with both my underclassmen and upperclassmen.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White–Paranormal YA is nothing new and Kiersten White’s debut has been out since 2010, but I still think it’s a nice change from the typical paranormal fare. Evie, the main character, isn’t busy pining away over some guy in her biology class. She’s working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency and prides herself on doing her job well. She’s pretty and girly and there is a love angle to the story, but it’s also funny and witty and original.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray–I’m more than halfway through the audio and can’t begin to explain how much I love this book. I’m purposely taking my time listening to it because it’s that good. And honestly, I could go on and on about why this book is such a breath of fresh air. The satire is spot on. The list of big issues being tackled in a very smart way is impressive. It’s simply a great book.

Party by Tom Leveen–By no fault of their own, teenagers are very self-centered. Yes, they think about others and do amazing things for others, but much of being a teenager is about figuring out who you are and worrying about yourself. The reason I say this, and I don’t mean any of that in a negative way, is because I don’t think a teen will necessarily think about every single person at a party (or in a classroom) and what their individual story is. Or how stories and paths might cross. Tom Leveen addresses this in Party. We are taken to a party and see that party through the eyes of eleven characters. We see how their paths cross and what’s really going on with each individual. It’s eye-opening for many of my students and has made them think more about others and what other people are going through.

I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin–There are plenty of YA books that deal with teen pregnancy, but not many that I  know of–other than Jumping Off Swings and Living With Jackie Chan–that are told from the father’s perspective. I had mixed feelings overall about this book, but it was still refreshing to read about how Nick deals with the unsettling news that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant and what she plans to do about it. This is also a book that I’ve had to replace every year since I originally bought it three years ago.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace–Another common story told in YA is about abusive relationships. When my students read books about that they often tell me when they would leave and how they would never put up with a relationship like that. I’m always happy to hear that, but I also know from other students that it’s not always that simple. What I love about this book is that it isn’t told in chronological order. Because of this, there isn’t an easy spot for a reader to say, “I would have left him then.” It’s given a number of my students pause after reading it.

Every Day by David Levithan–I don’t know if I really need to explain why I’m including this book. I haven’t read anything else like it which makes it really difficult to help my students find a new book to read when they finish this and want something else like it.

My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi–Jessica Verdi’s debut made the list because of the topic she wrote about. For some this may be a spoiler, but like I stated in my review, I think it will draw in more readers if you know what the character’s dilemma is. Lucy, the main character, contracts HIV. I haven’t read or heard of any other YA novels that feature a character getting or living with HIV, so that’s why I included this title.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon–Cancer books. There are SO MANY. And they often make a reader ugly cry which is one of the reasons I typically avoid them. This is not that book. Hollis Seamon’s debut made me snort with laughter and look at hospice and cancer in a very different way. One of my seniors read this and told me that he felt guilty for laughing so much. I laughed quite a few times, although a few scenes invoked tears. But would else is there to expect from a book about a teen who has terminal cancer?

Review: My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi

My Life After NowTitle: My Life After Now

Author: Jessica Verdi

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: April 2nd, 2013

Interest: Contemp / 2013 Debut Author

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it’s all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family?

Now her life is completely different…every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left.

Somehow My Life After Now escaped my attention until a few days ago. Once I found out what it’s about, I instantly wanted to read it. My debate right now is whether to go into detail about Lucy’s “dilemma” since the summary doesn’t state it and it might upset some readers to know prior to reading. That being said, I’m going to go ahead with openly discussing it because I think knowing that piece of information will prompt more readers to pick this debut title up and read it since it’s not an issue that’s often addressed in YA (that I know of).

The main reason I decided to read Jessica Verdi’s debut right away is because it’s about Lucy contracting HIV. I’ve read plenty of YA novels about girls getting pregnant and teen boys dealing with getting girls pregnant, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a teen getting an STD. I’ve never read one about a teen getting HIV. Our teens need to read stories like Lucy’s because 1.) They need to find themselves in a book if they’re also dealing with this and 2.) They need to see that they aren’t immune.

I will say, however, that My Life After Now isn’t preachy. There’s an obvious message present in Jessica Verdi’s novel, but it isn’t off-putting like it so easily could have been. It’s quite accessible and quite enjoyable. I felt Lucy’s anguish, shock, and anxiety. I was reading this during SSR and got to the part when Lucy finds out that she’s positive and wanted to stop reading to start discussing this with my students. Lucy’s emotions became my emotions. I think many of my students will love this book and really start thinking about their actions. Besides the HIV, students will like this book because of the relationships and other conflicts that are present. I’m sure my drama students will appreciate the drama/theater aspect as well.

Overall, My Life After Now is an engaging book with well-developed characters. It’s a fresh story that I can’t wait to share with my students. Jessica Verdi is an author to set your sights on.

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