Review | What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind
by Alison McGhee
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Release Date: May 15th 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.
Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk: by The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.
When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.

my thoughts and whatnot

Not gonna lie, I was initially drawn in by the beautiful cover (it's gorgeous!) but as soon as I read the synopsis, man, I am all in! For some reason, I very rarely read a contemporary with male POV and this one had that, so I was really intrigued; I'm also a sucker for a good poignant novel, so no wonder why I was hooked.
McGhee's writing style was quite unique and genius. How she managed to paint Will's life with just a hundred word per chapter is beyond me. I quite liked this unusual writing style that I flew through this. I was pretty surprised when this ended, though, because I really wanted more of Will and Playa.

I liked the main character, Will with his exhausted but golden heart. It just warms my heart that a character like this exists, you know? A character, flawed as he may seem, that just want to do good things. I don't know, call me sappy but that just made me like the book more.

Chapter 94 is my favorite chapter because I could almost feel how they felt:
“Playa,” I say. She doesn’t say anything. Just swings the little bag from her invisible hand. I try again. “Playa.”
But nothing comes out after that, because shit, I’m crying. I try to keep it silent so she doesn’t know, but she knows. I can tell by the way her invisible hand comes out and touches my shoulder.
“It’s okay,” she says.

See? 'nuff said.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this so much. Reading this was like a roller coaster ride that only goes up and crashes down just once - for me it was on chapter 94 (see above) - but in the end, it was a thrilling ride, nonetheless. I really wanted to know more about Playa, though (can we have a book for her, too? pretty please?)

About the author:

Alison McGhee writes novels, picture books, poems, and essays for all ages, including the forthcoming novel Never Coming Back (out in October 2017) and the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller SOMEDAY, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages. She lives in Minneapolis, California and Vermont.


1 copy of WHAT I LEAVE BEHIND 05/08-05/22 (US only)
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