YA Review: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

Posted April 25, 2021 by Richetta in Book Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

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YA Review: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGheeWhat I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
Published by Simon and Schuster on May 15, 2018
Genres: Emotions & Feelings, Friendship, Sexual Abuse, Social Themes, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 128

A colleague of mine recommended this to me and I am so glad that I listened to her. There was so much pain and emotion, yet so much power in this short little novel. Sixteen year old Will walks every night as he processes through the grief of losing his father to suicide. You immediately get the sense that this is a good kid who has been traumatized and is trying to find a way to deal with it in a positive manner. “Don’t let the bastards get you down,” are some of the words his father left him with before committing suicide. Something his father did not leave him with, his cornbread recipe, and it is a driving force for Will throughout the book.

This was such a unique approach to writing a novel. 100 chapters and 100 words in each chapter. The number 100 factors in both structurally and symbolically. You never feel shortchanged by the strict adherence to 100 words because McGhee uses them so masterfully. You feel like you are walking right along with Will as he helps others and leaves little Dollar Store gifts for them. The character is so observant of others feelings that you can see it was part of his deeper feelings of guilt regarding his father’s suicide and his best friend Playa’s rape.

I had all of the emotions by the end of this book. Great read for an adult. Great read for any teenager, but especially one who may shy away from long books.

Trigger Warnings: suicide, rape

Would I Read It Again? Yes. It took me like an hour to read it the first time. I don’t know how you would categorize it, but it is shorter than a novella. 

Recommend: Yes. I recommend for both adults and teens. This is a good opportunity for teens who don’t like to read longer texts. It would be an interesting mini-novel study and has great potential for a write alike. It starts off with an interesting hook too. 

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