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What We Left Behind by Robin Talley - Review

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you very much Harlequin books! 

What's it about? Toni and Gretchen have been together since junior year of high school, and they're about to go to university in Boston together. Only then Gretchen says she's going to New York University, but they're determined to stay together. Toni doesn't use pronouns for anyone (which is a bit odd to read at first but then you get used to it), and when Toni arrives at Harvard, Toni joins an LGBTQ+ association and makes some friends. Toni starts to think hard about what Toni's gender presentation is, and how that affects Toni's life and Gretchen's. The story is told in alternating chapters, with some flashbacks to high school. 

What age range is it for? 15+, right up to 19, as that's the approximate age of the protagonists.  

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Obviously yes. in fact, there's a whole range of genders and sexualities represented, all equally valid, but not in a way that feels preachy or forced. I will warn and say that Gretchen's friend Carroll is really transphobic in a number of places. 

Are any main characters non-white? Yep, a few. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so.

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, but it's not explicit 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? No, in fact I think it's self-censored in a couple of places. For instance, in one of Toni's parts there's a line like "I utter a few swear words". 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely. If you're a teen questioning gender, it's probably invaluable because lots of stuff is talked about. If your partner is questioning their gender, likewise. Gretchen often shies away from asking questions because she doesn't want to upset Toni. If you're a teen who just likes in-depth prose, this is definitely worth it, you'll probably learn something.

I also loved how Toni and Gretchen were at college - that's not something I see often in YA. It made an effective end to how they'd been at high school and made life a lot more open for them. I liked how Toni was stressed about life at Harvard quite apart from the gender stuff. I liked how Gretchen went out in New York. 

How many stars? 9 out of 10. Practically perfect!

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