PURCHASE:Amazon | Book Depository
From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love isn't enough to conquer all.
Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.
The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.
While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t really read New Adult. It’s not because I have something against New Adult, I mean I’ve read and loved several New Adult novels, my problem is that I never feel like I am being represented in New Adult. I go to college and here is a truth that people won’t tell you: college is all about being angsty. The angst doesn’t magically disappear once you get into college. You aren’t magically transformed into an adult. There is angst, lots of it. And sometimes it’s romantic but a lot of times, it isn’t. A lot of times, it’s just you trying to figure yourself out and that’s what What We Left Behind is about. It is about angst, relationships but most of all, figuring life about. And no, there are no real answers at the end of the novel or in life, to be honest. For the first time, I feel actually represented in New Adult. I may not be dealing with the exact same problems as the main characters of the book (not even CLOSE) but there are so so many things that are reflective of MY college experience and I like that.
Also the diversity in this book. OFF THE FUCKING CHARTS. WE LOVE DIVERSITY. WE LOVE REPRESENTATION. Or I do… and if you don’t… that’s kind of just sad (SORRY. It had to be said.)
So is this book perfect? The answer to that is NO. Not at all. This book can be problematic, the characters can be really unlikeable sometimes and the romance is kind of a pain to read about but I also loved this book because it is REAL. It is so real I cannot even tell you (I’ll try though because I love y’all.)
The first crack in Toni and Gretchen’s relationship is when Gretchen doesn’t tell Toni right away that she would rather go to NYU instead of be in the same city as Toni (paraphrazing here guys…) Over the course of the book, their relationship really suffers, because you know what, LOVE ISN’T EASY. Especially if you’re an angsty teenager. Trust me (or don’t because I literally do not know anything.)
So let’s talk characters. Toni is selfish. Toni is a horrible significant other. Toni’s first semester of college is all about Toni. And you know what, that’s how most of us feel. College is that place where you come to find yourself. I crossed an entire ocean to do that! For a lot of people, that first term is about being around people who you think finally understand you and what you’ve gone through your entire life. So you want to be around them. You want to tell them your entire life story, You want to figure yourself out by using them as a lens. Another horrible truth: most college kids are actually pretty self-centred since we are all trying to figure ourselves and our lives out. SORRY. ITS HARD. So even though Toni is kind of a jerk, Toni is realistic. Toni’s experiences are very real. I’ve seen several of my friends experience them, I’ve experienced some of them myself!
So where does Gretchen fit in? Is she the perfect girlfriend? NO! She is also a big mess. Gretchen has been in a relationship with Toni for the past two years so her first term of college is all about her trying to find out who Gretchen is. And she doesn’t magically find out. She becomes friends with the most obnoxious kid in the world. Carroll was a major douchecanoe. HATED HIM. But people like him are out there. Who are obnoxious and fail to understand other people’s experiences. I only wished the way he ways in which he was problematic was explored more. Going back to Gretchen though, she kind of sucks that first term too. She is clingy, self conscious and has a low self-esteem. She is so realistic though. It takes her a long time to find out who Gretchen is and when she does, it’s beautiful.
So would I recommend this book? Yes and No. This is clearly not a book for everybody and you know what, not everyone will love it. Not everyone will be able to deal with the angst (I usually hate angst too so I FEEL YOU), not everyone will want to look past all the bad, but at the end of the day, there will be people who will read this book and see themselves reflected in the experiences of these characters. Like I did.
PEACE OUT, POTATOES.
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