What We Left Behind

Finished What We Left Behind by Robin Talley.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Click here to enter to win one of three copies of What We Left Behind!

Summary (from Goodreads):

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 can’t even explain how much I love this story.

The first and most obvious reason is that it’s amazing.  I love Gretchen and Toni, and I love the fact that there is no real villain in this story.  These are two people who love each other and who don’t mean to hurt each other.  This isn’t deliberate cruelty on either’s part.

I probably especially love Toni because she reminds me of the woman I had a crush on in college.  (Oh, you guys, she was wonderful.  She was smart and cute and political and unapologetically feminist and we could’ve been together forever if she had just liked me back.)  And I was also not unlike Toni in college, because that’s when I was coming out too, and I didn’t yet get how to be gay without having that be the most defining aspect of my personality.  So yes, Toni was a little bit annoying but annoying in the way where you’re like, “Yeah, I did that” and cringing.  (Hello, young Kelly. I have missed you.)

But you know what this book is? It’s a lesbian Forever (the Judy Blume one, although I hope I don’t have to clarify).  And that’s kind of a spoiler, although honestly, we don’t know what happens with Gretchen and Toni.

And that’s okay.

I am completely obsessed with this book and it confirmed what I was pretty sure was going to be true from Lies We Tell Ourselves: I am going to read everything Robin Talley puts out.  Everything, always.  (And the next book is a YA retelling of Macbeth!)

Highly, highly recommended.

I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, and escaped to Washington, D.C., at the first opportunity. I now live with my wife, our antisocial cat, and our goofy hound dog on Capitol Hill and work for a progressive nonprofit organization. I spend my nights and weekends writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine’s character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

My first novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, was released in September 2014 by Harlequin Teen. It’s set in 1959 Virginia, and it’s about a black girl who’s one of the first to integrate an all-white high school, and the white girl with whom she ultimately falls in love. My next book, What We Left Behind, follows a high school couple — Gretchen, who identifies as a lesbian, and Toni, who identifies as genderqueer — whose relationship is tested when they’re separated for their first year of college. It’s coming out in November 2015.


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