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What You Left Behind
Jessica Verdi | Author and Editor

The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi
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?


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“Ryden’s story is a moving illustration of how sometimes you have to let go of the life you planned to embrace the life you’ve been given. A strong, character-driven story that teen readers will love.” — Carrie Arcos, National Book Award Finalist for Out of Reach


⭐️ Verdi eloquently details the trials and tribulations of being a single teen dad, Ryden’s feelings of guilt over Meg’s death, and his budding feelings towards Joni. The author weaves a mystery amid the chaos through the uncovering of a series of journals that Meg left for Ryden, her sister Mabel, and best friend Alan. Verdi holds nothing back, shedding a realistic light on Ryden’s situation, his decisions, and their very real consequences. His voice is spot-on and doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh realities that he faces. It isn’t often that a book nails the male teen voice as well as Verdi does in this work. VERDICT: An excellent addition to YA collections.”School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW


This combination of teen-pregnancy and sick-teenager tropes works thanks to Ryden’s blend of maturity and selfishness. His candid voice is endearing, and although his present-tense narration at first seems like every other teen novel on the shelf, the granulated iteration of baby details helps to illuminate the crushing burden he feels. Other characters are also well-drawn, and the plot moves along tidily to a satisfying conclusion. Verdi balances her plot elements deftly in a read that could have gone terribly wrong in less sure hands. — Kirkus


“Teens will be hooked by the premise but will stick with Ryden and his friends in this all-too-real portrait of a modern family.”Booklist


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