Review for What We Left Behind

Review for What We Left Behind

27308381Phew. I am finally done with this book. Normally if I dislike a book like I dislike this one, I would have dropped it at page 30 or 50, but I just kept going with this one. Because of Gretchen, because of the topic, because of college stuff (which always interests me). And maybe also a bit because I was hoping that Toni would finally see the effing light and get a brain.

Yeah, yeah, Toni was the biggest problem in this one. Every time we got Gretchen’s POV I was delighted, but also sad that the whole book wasn’t about her. Because Toni was just so damned annoying, I have NOTHING against transgenders, nothing against people who are queer, genderqueer, or whatever other term flew around in this book. I am totally OK with people figuring out their gender. However, there is one thing, or actually some more stuff I am not agreeing with. Stuff I also see around the net, stuff I first noticed on a website I frequent. The whole PUSHING, SHOVING, DEMANDING of people to use genderless/gendersafe pronouns. The bashing, the hating on everyone who DARES to just use Hey Guys, when popping up in a chat. Or the hate when people dare to call someone by their gender pronouns. Or the talk about language being sexist and trying to push your beliefs on others.
Luckily, in this book Toni also sees in that she might be hurting people by her attitude of eradicating all of the gender stuff in her sentences. Because sorry, that is what you are doing. You are doing fine for yourself, but you should also look around you, see that you might hurt people like this. Sadly, she still keeps doing it for a long time, by the time she actually starting to see that it might all go different it was too late for me.
And sorry, that wasn’t all why Toni was the most horrendous, bad, craptastic character in the whole world. She was also so fucking selfish, so self-absorbed, and she couldn’t even get over the fucking grudge with Gretchen, who decided to pick for herself for once. The whole Gretchen lied to me thing? That tiny little thing? Sure, it sucked, but do you need to keep on whining about it for months?
Can’t you just open your eyes for once and look around you? There is a whole world around you, you are not ALONE on that globe. You are surrounded by millions, billions of people. Nice and all that you think you are so superior, but I think you, Toni, are the worst. Putting people in boxes, thinking they aren’t so smart so lets not bother them with important stuff, throughout the book I just wanted to throttle Toni for being so selfish. For only thinking of herself. And sure, what she is going through is big. Is Huge. But you know? That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to people about it. That doesn’t mean you can just ignore people you love. That doesn’t mean you act like you did throughout this book.
I could go on and on about Toni, but I will just drop it at this part. I think I have said most of what I wanted, I think my point is clear. I hated Toni, and I will always do that. She ruined the book for me. She could have been so great, she had so much potential to become a great, intriguing character who I could care about.

Then we have Gretchen, I loved the girl. She was pretty great. Sure, she had some stuff I didn’t like. But in general? She was a great and also interesting girl. Her struggles with Toni, how Toni was changing was real, though I also wish she would stop with all the guilt-trips, with all the clinging. Toni isn’t so great, and I can imagine that you would want to hold on to the relationship, but can’t you see what is happening? Can’t you see this isn’t your fault?
Gretchen, girl, weren’t you the one who wanted to explore the world? Who wanted to look further than just your girlfriend? Why don’t you just do that. And luckily, she does that quite often, but I feel like she could have done more.
Her relationship/friendship with Carroll? Hit and miss. At times I really liked Carroll, but after a certain point in the book, I hated him. To act like this, to act like it was all Gretchen? How could you?
Still Gretchen was an interesting character, she felt the most real out of the 2 main characters.

Then we have a whole bunch of side-characters, most of them I loved, for several I felt sorry, that they had to go through that to get where they are now. I hope they can be more happy, that they can live their life as they would want it.
Their stories were really interesting and I loved how real they felt.

What else to discuss? Ah, I did like that we at times travelled back to the past, to see certain events (of course from both POVs), I really liked Toni back then, I really liked Gretchen x Toni then. Not like the now part we are mostly in.

The whole transgender part of the story was really interesting. I am not sure if everything is well represented, as I only know basic stuff about it, but I do have to say it seemed that the author did quite a bit of research about the topic. It was really interested to see the transitioning, the thought process of the characters, and how they saw things. How they dealt with family, friends, colleagues.

I wish there was a bit more focus on the whole college stuff as well. Maybe some classes, now at times the only thing we noticed about them being in college was the fact they had quite a bit of free time, did some homework.

I forgot one character. The mom. Dear Lord, what a horrendous character she was. 😐 How she treated Toni, how she treated her family, how she saw status and how the outside world looked at her family as more important than a daughter struggling with gender. Bleh. 😐

I really was looking forward to this book. The first few pages (with Gretchen x Toni’s first meeting) was just magnificent. The blurb sounded great, and I also loved Robin Talley’s first book to pieces, but sadly this book just got wrong from the moment the lie came out and college started. It is such a shame. I feel really sad that I couldn’t like this book.
Hopefully the next Robin Talley book will be one I will love again.


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