A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about the importance of empathy and how people deal with grief.
Throughout the book, Will is dealing with grief, but he still shows other people that he cares about them. Reach out to the people in your life, even if it is in small ways. You never know what personal battles people are going through. Open your eyes and heart; observe and connect with the humanity around you.
Positive Role Models
Will is a sweet, empathetic person. He does many small acts of kindness every day that go a long way toward helping other people. Playa is a good, longtime friend of Will's. Major Tom, Will's boss, is supportive of Will and reaches out to him. Will's mom isn't in the book much, but she continues to try to connect with her son in a loving way.
Violence & Scariness
A rape and a suicide are discussed but not described.
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Infrequent profanity, mostly used for emphasis: "s--t," "f--k," "bastard," "hell," "pissed," "ass," and "Jesus."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Character recalls drunk teen girls at a big party.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee (Snap) follows a teen boy named Will as he works at his part-time job and walks the streets of his urban Los Angeles neighborhood for hours at a time. Will's father recently died, and he deals with his grief by walking, thinking, and trying to sort out his memories and emotions. The story is told in 100 one-page chapters that are 100 words each. It's a quick but not light read. Issues of love, friendship, death, suicide, and rape are important to the story and provide good discussion topics. There's infrequent strong language (including "s--t" and "f--k") and a mention of drunk teens at a party.
Is It Any Good?
This beautiful and captivating little book about grief, friendship and empathy sneaks up and hits you with an emotional wallop. What I Leave Behind gives the reader Will's thoughts as he walks his neighborhood, which is his way of coping with the grief over his dad's death. The book has no real plot to speak of, but it tells an important coming-of-age story. Will's past, regrets, happy memories, and hopes all unfold as he walks and thinks. He learns a lot about himself and the world during these walks. His voice as a narrator is wonderful and relatable. Already an empathetic kid, his empathy grows as he closely watches the hopes and struggles of his friends and neighbors. Even though there's not a lot of "action," author Alison McGhee packs so much emotion and personal growth in so few pages it feels like magic trick.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.