YA Book Review: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee. Simon & Schuster, 2018. 9781481476560. 199pp. (The page count is deceptive. The book has a few very short paragraphs of text on every other page, with the facing page having a single Chinese character for a number between one and 100, arranged sequentially.)

Will walks to and from the dollar store where he works, to and from school, past places and people. He talks to Superman (a guy who lives on the street), to a kid who shows him the butterflies that land on his garage, and to his socially challenged but kindhearted boss, Major Tom. Will thinks about cornbread all the time, which is a way of thinking about his dad, who used to make it. And sometimes he thinks about his friend Playa, who was raped by three guys at a party after Will left. He hasn’t talked to her about that, or about his dad, or anything for a while. But Will has a good heart, and after doing a few nice things for the kid with the butterflies, he decides maybe he can do a few nice things for Playa, too.

This is a short, poetic, big-hearted story that I read in a very short amount of time, and which I’m going to reread again, I’m sure.


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