Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Teen Tuesday and Review: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee. 200 p. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Atheneum/ Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May, 2018. 9781481476560. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher)

I am intrigued by books written under unusual constraints, like Chris Crowe's Death Coming Up the Hill. This slim novel is told in one hundred, hundred-word chapters. It is the story of sixteen-year-old Will who grieves his father's suicide. He tries to get through each day as best he can. He walks the neighborhood day and night; but avoids certain areas. He observes. He enjoys watching "Little Dude" who has an obsession with butterflies. He has a job in a dollar store where he buoys his boss, the socially inept owner. He tries to replicate his father's cornbread and gives his failures to Superman, the local homeless man. He also feels guilty for the sexual assault of his good friend, Playa. He left the party where it happened early. Had he only stayed, perhaps... 

Each of the "chapters" are numbered in Chinese and McGhee makes the most of her hundred words. Each chapter is a thumbnail sketch of a moment in Will's day. The writing is precise and incisive. Though the reader may yearn to know more, we are given what are given. In some ways this replicates Will's need to know why his father chose to end his life. He was given what he was given.

YA readers who love thoughtful and sad books will appreciate gentle Will's journey.

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