Did I just make that joke? Really? Wow, I’m awful. Sorry!
(But isn’t it funny!?)
This review is brought to you by Renae, possessor of a bad sense of humor.
I think it says something about the state of YA fiction (and YA readers), that in a book that deals with a topic as hard-hitting and uncomfortable as domestic abuse, my favorite part about What She Left Behind was the romance. What exactly does it say? Probably nothing good, but I’m mostly okay with that.
See, I don’t like bossy, bastardly alpha males; I tolerate them, but I’d just as soon not read about them. I like guys who are caring, who are actually nice to the female protagonist, who don’t toy with her or come across as creepy/rude/abusive/controlling/etc. Maybe they have a dark, tortured past, maybe they don’t. But dammit, I like the nice guys!
Sara’s love interest, Alex, was a nice guy. And he’s going on my (newly invented) list of book boyfriends. So there.
But see, that goes back to what I said before: Sara is dealing with her mother’s probable death at the hands of her father. Why in heck to I care about who she is or is not kissing? I shouldn’t, that’s for sure. I should be much more invested in getting Sara’s dad sent to jail, not plotting happily-ever-afters between the lines.
I have no clue why this happens in YA books. Don’t care, though—I end up with a lot of paper-and-ink boyfriends.
Anyway, that was a rant, also brought to you by Renae, notorious lover of nice guys.
Now to the real review.
Tracy Bilen did an excellent job with What She Left Behind. Sara’s situation was very emotional and believable. It was only too easy to see that Sara’s dad, after his son’s suicide, went a little crazy, and that this craziness only exacerbated his already abusive tendencies. And boy was Sara’s dad off his rocker. By the time you get to the end of this book, you’ll be thinking “oh my word, how much worse can this guy get?” and then he’ll manage to surprise you.
Given her circumstances, and her dad’s personality, I liked Sara. I didn’t get a huge connection with her, but she was a really interesting, unique character. I might have wanted a little more depth to her personality, but since she spent most of the book wandering around town trying not to panic because she had no idea where her mom was, I can definitely cut her some slack.
That is one interesting things about What She Left Behind—there’s a lot of waiting around. I think this book covers about a week’s worth of time, and really, not a lot happens. Sara thinks her dad killed her mom, and Alex starts to take notice of Sara, and he follows her around trying to help. That’s, honestly, the entire plot of this book, up until the last fifty pages.
(And when you look at it like that, I guess it’s a little understandable why I went all swoony-swoon over the romance. Did I mention Alex was a football star and Sara was in the marching band—geek/jock pairing!!!)
Either way, the content of What She Left Behind is pretty hard-hitting, and the resolution was empowering and satisfying. My realistic fiction craving was definitely satisfied with this book, and there was the added bonus of a cute teen relationship on top.