What I Leave Behind
by McGhee, Alison

Since his father's suicide, Will, sixteen, has mainly walked, worked at Dollar Only, and tried to replicate his father's cornbread recipe, but the rape of his childhood friend shakes things up.

*Starred Review* Sixteen-year-old Will is a walker. Things have to be walked out through the soles of your feet, he believes. And Will has things that need to be walked out: his best friend since grade school, Playa, has been raped at a party that he had left too early to save her. His father is dead-a suicide. Will was 13 when that happened, and that's when he began to walk. His father made the best cornbread; the morning he died, he offered Will some, but Will, headed for school, said "nah." Now he wonders if he had said "yes," would his father still be alive? In memory of his father, Will tries making cornbread, too, but it's never as good as his father's. He gives it to Superman, the homeless guy he passes on his walks. He secretly leaves presents for the little boy he passes, too, who is always waiting for butterflies to land. Most important, he starts leaving little gifts at Playa's doorstep with an unsigned note with something his father used to say: Don't let the bastards get you down. McGhee's short, understated novel is an artful exercise in melancholy. Though it occasionally veers close to sentimentality, it always manages to skirt it, conveying emotions that are pure and sincere. Will is a classic wounded teenager who is nevertheless his own person. Everybody loved his father-and every reader will love openhearted Will. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

In McGhee's (Never Coming Back, 2017, etc.) latest offering, a 16-year-old grapples with his father's suicide and the rape of his childhood friend at a party. Three years have passed since Will's father took his life. Every Tuesday night as his mother works the overnight shift, Will tries and fails to re-create his father's cornbread recipe. He has a job at a dollar store, where he gives his socially awkward boss the nickname Major Tom, after the David Bowie song. He feels driven to wander the streets of Los Angeles, connecting with a precocious brown-skinned, black-haired child he calls "little butterfly dude" and offering his failed batches of cornbread to Superman, a homeless person. He recalls memories of his father, attempting to make sense of his suicide, and agonizes over his old friend Playa (named by beach-loving parents) and his guilt over leaving the party early. He drops in on Mrs. Lin, who runs a Chinese store he used to visit with his father, fascinated by the 1 00 blessings she sold. Told from Will's fragmented, raw perspective, this slim novella packs a profound punch. Numbers from one to 100 written in Chinese (verso) accompany each snapshot from Will's life, relayed in sparse, taut language (recto). Most characters are assumed white. Haunting, introspective, and traced with pain. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

What I Leave Behind

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