What You Left Behind
Author: Jessica Verdi
Publication Date: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
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?
You guys, I am so ecstatic about having Jessica Verdi on the blog today, talking about parents in YA, because let's be honest, we all know how parents in YA usually goes, and fortunately, that is definitely not a problem in What You Left Behind. Which, *cough* coincidence *cough* is out now!
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Kirsty-Marie, and for your great question!
Thatnks for answering! :)
Thatnks for answering! :)
I love the mother/son relationship in WHAT YOU LEFT BEHIND, and it’s been amazing to hear from readers about how much they appreciated Ryden’s mom’s supportiveness throughout his journey. I’m not sure I ever made the conscious “choice” to make Deanna and Ryden’s relationship so close; it just always felt right to me. I love that she’s a still a parent and gets down to business when she needs to, but that she also understands what Ryden is going through and makes sure he never feels alone in any of this.
I actually also got a lot of wonderful feedback about the parents in my first book, MY LIFE AFTER NOW. So many readers loved Lucy’s dads in that book—that they were so loving, present, and supportive; a part of Lucy’s journey rather than a hindrance to it—which couldn’t make me happier!
There’s that rule YA writers always talk about: “Step one: Kill the parents.” Or get rid of the parents in some other way. I think a lot of people think because YA books are about teenagers, the teenagers are all the readers care about. I agree to an extent—The Hunger Games wouldn’t work if Katniss hadn’t had to be a surrogate parent for her sister—but it really depends on the story. For contemporary fiction, I think it’s important to be as realistic as possible (without sacrificing plot, of course), and the fact is, many kids do have very present parents. So, if it works for the story, there’s no harm in letting the parents be a part of the narrator’s journey. From my experience, readers love seeing supportive teen/parent relationships on the page.
Jessica Verdi is a young adult author who writes envelope-pushing stories about not-so-pretty real-life issues, but always with a positive spin.
Though she’s always been a bookworm (her childhood was basically defined by the philosophy that working your way through giant stacks of library books is far superior to playing outside), she remained convinced throughout high school and college that the stage—rather than the page—was meant to be her creative outlet. After nearly ten years pounding the NYC pavement auditioning for musicals (and sometimes actually getting cast in them), she got an idea for a novel. That novel was an adult magical realism story, and while it will never see the light of day—nope, don’t ask—it was the book that started her love affair with writing. Now she can’t imagine doing anything else.
Jess received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School and works as an editor at a romance novel publisher. She loves all animals, from the cute and cuddly to the large and freakish, has been a vegetarian for most of her life, is a little too obsessed with TV shows about vampires, and has an amazing group of writer friends who keep her sane.
Jess lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and dog.