What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee | Book ReviewWhat I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
Published by Simon and Schuster on May 15th 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Social Themes, Emotions & Feelings, Friendship, Sexual Abuse
Pages: 128
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9781481476584

After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this exquisitely crafted story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each, by award-winning and bestselling author Alison McGhee.

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.

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee was an easy book to convince me to read. It’s pitched as emotional and part love letter to Bowie. So, you know, I am completely HERE FOR THIS BOOK. Friends, I read this in a single sitting. It was so compelling and just packs so much in a sparse book. I love that What I Leave Behind shows a book doesn’t need to be too wordy to have impact. Also, there’s a music motif and I love that.

Alison McGhee’s What I Leave Behind is about a sixteen year old boy named Will. He works at the Dollar Only store and lives with his mother. Will’s father committed suicide when he was thirteen years old. Will is still dealing with this. That’s natural, the impacts of trauma are far reaching. Meanwhile, one of Will’s childhood friends, Playa, was raped at a party. So, he’s also struggling with trying to be a good friend. Eventually, Will attempts to perform small, secret acts of kindness.

Will is such a good kid with a crappy lot in life. I mean, it isn’t his fault that his dad ended his life. However, Will feels a sense of blame for what happened. So much so, that it has become a big deal for him to try and recreate his father’s cornbread recipe. Will can’t quite succeed in this, however. The other thing to note about Will is that he is a walker. He does not drive anywhere. Yet, he walks all over. This is how he deals with his emotions. As I read this book, I really ended up empathizing with Will.

So, the writing style of What I Leave Behind has the potential to be kind of a gimmick. There are 100 pages of the book with 100 words on them. Thankfully, it is a style that really works for this book. I felt like not a single word was superfluous. You get such a strong sense of Will as a person too. But we also get a good sense of his dad and the side characters, Major Tom and Playa. I think that this a great book if you’ve got some kind of reluctant reader in your life, if you’re a busy person but still want to feel good about reading a book quickly. I overall loved this book.

Other reviews of What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee:

  • I haven’t seen any posted as of 3/17/2018 when I wrote this review, however if you’ve reviewed, leave me your link and I will post it here.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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