What We Left Behind by Robin Talley


Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, LGBT+
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Publication Date: October 22nd 2015


“You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.”

Toni and Gretchen have always been perfect for each other, at least until they ended up going to university in different cities. Gretchen begins to try to find herself outside of the relationship while Toni struggles with gender identity whilst being part of a group of queer friends. They’re both turning out so different, will their love be able to last?

While there we several things that bugged me about this book, I can remember a few very clearly. First of all, genderqueer is represented in this book as a state between deciding what you are. Toni knows they don’t fit in any box but it’s largely suggested that they’re just preparing to transition.That genderqueer was just the in-between phase. Toni also uses only gender-neutral pronouns for a large part of the book – for everyone. Even after people tell Toni their gender, Toni refuses to respect it. They only start uses he/she because it’s easier and not because people deserve to be called he/she is that’s what they want to be called.

Anyone traditionally feminine is presented as a non-feminist because they like nice clothes and make-up. “Neither of them has the right to talk about feminism until they stop posting pictures of themselves in bikinis.” Feminists and/or gay people are never well-dressed or care about their appearance. Lesbians do not participate in girly fashion things.

Tying into that last bit – none of the characters are really believable. They are, at best, a stereotypical representation of whatever trope the author wants to fill. Toni is perhaps the least likeable of all, and while it is addressed that they put people in boxes to make hating them easier, they never really stops. Gretchen lets Toni push her around and hurt her but still waits for her to come back like a lovesick puppy. Everyone is either a jerk or a sweet airhead.

There’s just not much that this book had going for it. It didn’t need Gretchen’s point-of-view taking away from the interesting plotline. There were far too many scenes just meant to info dump queer terminology that Talley should have integrated naturally into the story. Gretchen does have some character growth but Toni barely changes. This book is four-hundred pages of angst. There are some exciting scenes – but it’s not good representation or a strong read.

The representation should have been the focus of this book, but genderqueer is represented so poorly that it’s all downhill from there.

For Fans Of: When Everything Feels Like The Movies



Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s