Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

What I Leave Behind: Book summary and reviews of What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind

by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee X
What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this exquisitely crafted story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.

Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father's famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn't stopped. But there are some places Will can't walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa's house.

When Will learns Playa was raped at a party - a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn't left early - it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. McGhee skillfully evokes sense memory, as Will attempts to find solace in his nighttime wanderings. Ultimately, the piercing narrative offers an affirmation of remaining connected to others through loss as Will embraces his relationships and begins to heal." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Haunting, introspective, and traced with pain." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. 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. Grades 9-12." - Booklist

This information about What I Leave Behind was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

Drew Kurtis

This book was very good 10/10
I enjoyed this quick read. I'm kinda a fast reader though. I loved the characters and how they were conveyed and the story itself was amazing. If you're thinking of reading this I would 100 think you should. I loved it, I hope others do too.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Alison McGhee Author Biography

Alison McGhee writes for all ages in all forms, from novels to poems to books for children. Her bestselling novel Shadow Baby was a Today Show Book Club pick, and her picture book for adults, Someday, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages, and she has won many fellowships and awards, including four Minnesota Book Awards, the Geisel medal, a MacDowell residency, and several American Library Association awards.

Alison has three grown children and lives a semi-nomadic life in Minneapolis, Vermont and California.

Link to Alison McGhee's Website

Other books by Alison McGhee at BookBrowse
  • Never Coming Back jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more YA literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Liberty Equality Fashion
    Liberty Equality Fashion
    by Anne Higonnet
    With the title Liberty Equality Fashion, it may seem like Anne Higonnet's new book is an unserious ...
  • Book Jacket: Real Americans
    Real Americans
    by Rachel Khong
    Rachel Khong's sophomore novel Real Americans is an intergenerational saga that questions racial and...
  • Book Jacket: A Short Walk Through a Wide World
    A Short Walk Through a Wide World
    by Douglas Westerbeke
    From the very first page of A Short Walk Through a Wide World, debut novelist (and librarian!) ...
  • Book Jacket: The Swans of Harlem
    The Swans of Harlem
    by Karen Valby
    Journalist Karen Valby's first book, The Swans of Harlem, introduces readers to the little-known ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Long After We Are Gone
by Terah Shelton Harris
After their father's death, four siblings rally to save their family home in this gripping and hopeful tale.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    This Strange Eventful History
    by Claire Messud

    An immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history.

Win This Book
Win Only the Brave

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

A powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

R is a D B S C

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.