What We Left Behind by Robin Talley


What We Left Behind
Title : What We Left Behind
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0373211759
Language : English
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416

From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love may not be enough to conquer all.Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school They ve been together forever They never fight They re deeply, hopelessly in love When they separate for their first year at college Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU they re sure they ll be fine Where other long distance relationships have fallen apart, theirs is bound to stay rock solid.The reality of being apart, though, is very different than they expected Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.While Toni worries that Gretchen won t understand Toni s new world, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni s life As distance and Toni s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together


What We Left Behind Reviews


  • Emily May

    This might be my most disappointing read of 2015 I have been so excited for this book There are so few books out there about people who identify as genderqueer that I couldn t wait for this book to be available But it did so many things wrong.Firstly, I knew early on that this wasn t going to get than three stars It read like a textbook or essay discussing and informing the reader about being transgender and being genderqueer The story itself about Toni and Gretchen s relationship This might be my most disappointing read of 2015 I have been so excited for this book There are so few books out there about people who identify as genderqueer that I couldn t wait for this book to be available But it did so many things wrong.Firstly, I knew early on that this wasn t going to get than three stars It read like a textbook or essay discussing and informing the reader about being transgender and being genderqueer The story itself about Toni and Gretchen s relationship was weak and underdeveloped Starting with instalove and never growing into anything that interesting, it merely served as a platform for the issues to be discussed But that wasn t a completely bad thing either I would have given this three stars if it educated teens about people so rarely represented in YA.There were many discussions about the fluidity of gender and language I found this latter particularly interesting and enjoyed learning about the ways language has changed to incorporate LGBTQIA individuals and words like sexism and homophobia But the book started to really go downhill when it began to completely misrepresent what it means to be genderqueer.You can read many blog posts and articles by people who identify as genderqueer, you can watch videos by those who are genderqueer and hear firsthand what they have to say about it But to summarize, being genderqueer means that you do not identify with masculinity or femininity , you do not simply fall into either box This might be because you fall somewhere between the two, having both traditionally masculine and feminine gender traits Or it might be because you find yourself somewhere outside the expectations of either.It is not, however, the same thing as being transgender And, contrary to what this book portrays, it is not a transition period in which you decide which gender you belong to And it annoys me so much that this book suggests genderqueer people are those who haven t made their minds up which gender they want to be That is NOT true Just like bisexual people are not those who simply haven t decided whether they like girls or boys yet.But that s not all that bothered me.I hated the disdain for every white heterosexual person in the book Both Toni and Gretchen comment on this Gretchen doesn t want to be straight because it s so normal , and Toni comments on her roommates all being non white but is relieved she brings some LGBT diversity Sexuality and gender identity are not fashion statements It s not about being cool Bloody hell.My issue with this isn t because I feel so sorry for all the poor white heterosexual people, it s because it sells the right wing misconception that gay or transgender people have disdain for straight, cisgender people It s so stupid And so wrong I think the only straight, cisgender character in the book that isn t mean is Toni s little sister Audrey Seriously, I m not exaggerating The others are viewed like this Joanna gets up at six in the morning to start a ninety minute hair care regimen, and Felicia wears designer high heels every day even though they always get caught in the sidewalks Joanna and Felicia are the ultimate gender conformists Neither of them has the right to talk about feminism until they stop posting pictures of themselves in bikinis. Because feminists can t possibly want to be attractive and take pictures of themselves in bikinis, right Wrong I m also confused about the decision to have Gretchen befriend a homophobic, transphobic guy who calls Toni a shemale I thought it was going to be part of a lesson message the book was imparting, but nope, she just decided she liked him.This book was just a complete mess I m so so disappointed I really am We need books with genderqueer characters, just not like this.Blog Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube Pinterest

  • Jessie Devine

    I read the ARC of this book, and I m really disappointed in it I think I would ve liked it, except .The genderqueer representation is not good at all First, I m going to refer to the genderqueer character only as T through this review so as not to spoil things T does the WORST thing that reinforces the WORST stereotype about genderqueer people T acts like a hipster babydyke another character s word, not mine and goes around calling everyone by gender neutral pronouns, until the very I read the ARC of this book, and I m really disappointed in it I think I would ve liked it, except .The genderqueer representation is not good at all First, I m going to refer to the genderqueer character only as T through this review so as not to spoil things T does the WORST thing that reinforces the WORST stereotype about genderqueer people T acts like a hipster babydyke another character s word, not mine and goes around calling everyone by gender neutral pronouns, until the very end of the novel It would be one thing if this was a mistake, but T continues doing so even after one of the transguys explains why it s hurtful for many people and why it s not okay Secondly, T is portrayed consistently as confused This is fine I ve been plenty confused about gender identity myself I have identified as genderqueer since high school but it is not okay, repeat, not okay for an author to portray a character as officially genderqueer and then have their thought process be, I think I might be transgender, and I might want to transition ftm, I might want to go on hormones, I might get surgery, but then again I might just be gender variant T s word or gender nonconforming also T s word but I m not sure right now, I m really confused so I m just going to go with genderqueer Being genderqueer is in one sense a lot like being bi many, many people will go out of their way to tell you it s not a real identity, it s transitional, that you re really just confused For a book to clearly present a character all the way to the end in a manner that reinforces all those toxic stereotypes is really problematic There is even a point where transguys in the group invite T to come over, joking that they are having a meeting of the formerly genderqueer If we re trying to be representative of an identity genderqueer then this is not okay.I think what happened is that the author was trying to subvert a stereotype, but ended up playing right into it In fact, SPOILER ALERT the book ends with T saying I m still not sure, I m still confused, I m still figuring things out Again, confusion is fine Everybody is always figuring things out But if that s the case, say the character is confused about their gender identity do NOT call them genderqueer Genderqueer is a real live identity that real live people who aren t confused live every single day Finally, while this book DOES present some of the frustration and worry associated with being non binary in an accurate way, that s the only thing it presents Lots of confusion, lots of frustration, and lots of negativity The only time T talks about actually feeling good is when T spends the weekend presenting completely 100% as male Which again, is fine, but then don t say the character is genderqueer That s not what genderqueer is Being genderqueer comes with some frustrations, but it also comes with some wonderful feelings and really self defining and affirming emotions WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND didn t touch on these feelings at all, and honestly, to me T doesn t come across as genderqueer.After all that, I love Gretchen s character I think she grows and changes and I love her chapters I admire her courage to set out on her own even though it was difficult, and I think she grows into a strong person who stands up for herself and chases the things that are important to her

  • Taneika

    I don t really know where to start with this review All I really know is I was SO excited to read this There is so little representation of people who identify as genderqueer and I couldn t wait to get my hands on it, but I ended up so incredibly disappointed.Also to note, for the purposes of this review, I will referring to Toni as T as to not spoil anything.To start with, the writing felt forced and read like a collection of short essays or even a textbook, and there was barely any resembla I don t really know where to start with this review All I really know is I was SO excited to read this There is so little representation of people who identify as genderqueer and I couldn t wait to get my hands on it, but I ended up so incredibly disappointed.Also to note, for the purposes of this review, I will referring to Toni as T as to not spoil anything.To start with, the writing felt forced and read like a collection of short essays or even a textbook, and there was barely any resemblance of a plot The plot essentially follows T and Gretchen s first year of college apart from eachother and how this affects their relationship The plot was incredibly weak and essentially just served as a tool to try and educate readers about being genderqueer or transgender.I wouldn t normally have a huge problem with this as this is so rarely discussed in YA or at all , however among the info dumps about how things can be problematic, was in turn, pretty problematic in themselves.Now, I understand that this might seem a bit rich coming from the mouth of a cis, straight girl, but I had a lot of issues One of the main issues I had with this was the misrepresentation of what it means to be genderqueer From my understanding, genderqueer is a kind of umbrella term for those whose gender identity is outside of, not included within, or beyond the binary of female and male It is also within my understanding that genderqueer is not PURELY a period in which you decide which gender you belong to This book implies that genderqueer people just haven t made up their minds about which gender they d like to be, kinda like how bisexual people just haven t made up whether they like men or women, right rolls eyes T s friend group at Harvard consists largely of transgender people, and it s fantastic to have such a huge cast of diverse characters, instead of having just one or two here and there There is a lot of discussion about language and pronouns, which I found somewhat interesting and T spends a giant chunk of the novel trying out several gender neutral pronouns to see what T likes As a general rule, T hates pronouns, which is fine However, while experimenting with pronouns and deciding which ones fit best, T also calls everybody by gender neutral pronouns and ends up misgendering as a result It would be one thing if this was a mistake, but T continues to do so even after being called out on it.The conversation between T and a transguy in the group, Andy goes along the lines of I never use gendered pronouns at all, I don t want to reinforce the gender binary Andy snorts, Please Don t be one of those hypergenderqueer people who s always ragging on the rest of us for wanting to look like guys That s not what Toni said at all, Derek says Relax, dude I m just saying, I had to go through a lot of shit to get people to call me he, Andy tells us I don t need some kid coming in here and deciding I don t get to just because binaries are evil Following that exchange and being called out on it, T continues to call Andy whatever T likes and intentionally misgenders him, among many other people It s just downright disrespectful to go OUT OF YOUR WAY to misgender someone, particularly after they ve asked you not to, and yet T does it ALL THE TIME.Another thing that really grinded my gears was how this book tried to portray feminism Two of the only cis, straight females in this book apart from T s sister, Audrey , were straight up transphobic arseholes, but also just served as a platform to have shitty views of what feminism means be thrown at us According to our main character, feminists aren t allowed to conform to gender roles and aren t allowed to wear bikinis or take photos of themselves in them God forbid feminists are comfortable with their bodies and want to show themselves off Joanna gets up at six in the morning to start a ninety minute hair care regimen, and Felicia wears designer high heels every day even though they always get caught in the sidewalks Joanna and Felicia are the ultimate gender conformists Neither of them has the right to talk about feminism until they stop posting pictures of themselves in bikinis.Are You Serious.As I previously mentioned, I loved how many diverse characters there were, however I didn t particular like how there is so much animosity toward white, straight people, not because I feel sorry for white, straight people, but because it reinforces the misconception that gay or transgender people harbor hatred toward white, cisgendered, straight people As a character, Gretchen grew much so than T did I still didn t really like her and I am still trying to figure out why she decided to become best friends with a transphobic gay guy who regularly calls T a shemale Not once did Gretchen call him out on his fucking apalling behaviour, and it just seemed so weird for this to be accepted by Gretchen of all people.I could probably write a 10 page essay discussing why things in this book were problematic and how disappointed I am, but I will stop here The truth is, I am struggling to put my thoughts together coherently enough to even write this review I am so beyond disappointed and it worries me that authors or publishers will be hesitant to write publish stories about genderqueer or transgender characters because of how much of a disaster this one was Considering there are no other mainstream YA books out there that tackles this topic, I think Talley tried her best However, that doesn t mean this wasn t riddled with problems Misrepresenting people in an attempt to simply include diverse characters for the sake of ticking the diversity box, and pumping out these sorts of books because we all want to read books with diversity, is not the kind of representation that is needed.Please let me know in the comments if I ve made a mistake or need to clarify anything it was a little hard to put my thoughts together , I mean no offense but please let me know if I have Thankyou HarlequinTeen Australia for providing me with a review copy This has in no way affected my review

  • Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)

    This is not positive representation of what it means to be genderqueer If you were attracted to this book in part because Toni is genderqueer, What We Left Behind will only leave you disappointed and enraged because it is used interchangably with being trans and generally treated as a transitional stage or a place you are when you aren t certain, not as its own gender identity Repeatedly, characters use the wrong pronouns for someone, get corrected, and continue to use the wrong pronouns anywa This is not positive representation of what it means to be genderqueer If you were attracted to this book in part because Toni is genderqueer, What We Left Behind will only leave you disappointed and enraged because it is used interchangably with being trans and generally treated as a transitional stage or a place you are when you aren t certain, not as its own gender identity Repeatedly, characters use the wrong pronouns for someone, get corrected, and continue to use the wrong pronouns anyway and never get called out for it again As arbitrary as language is, respect the language someone else uses, okay

  • thebookbitch

    After having time to think about the book the and I grew irritated Robin Talley has great writing and Toni and Gretchen were great characters, however, she definitely missed a few important points on what it is to be Genderqueer I was so wrapped up in this whirlwind story that I wasn t paying so much attention to the details until after I read it.

  • Sue (Hollywood News Source)

    This book will contain spoilers, and quotes from the book.When a book opened up with a relatable litany such as these You re bound to think, Oh, hell yes This shit might be good It better be good.However, What We Left Behind drastically failed in every standard that I was highly holding itself into There are a lot of offensive and alarming situations that made my skin crawled.There is a prominent character in the story, named Caroll He is gay, and he keeps using transphobic and lespobic sl This book will contain spoilers, and quotes from the book.When a book opened up with a relatable litany such as these You re bound to think, Oh, hell yes This shit might be good It better be good.However, What We Left Behind drastically failed in every standard that I was highly holding itself into There are a lot of offensive and alarming situations that made my skin crawled.There is a prominent character in the story, named Caroll He is gay, and he keeps using transphobic and lespobic slurs He never got called out for that Being part of the LGBTQ community doesn t give you the right to undermine your peers, especially since you have an inkling about each other s struggles He could also be seen a handful of times saying really awful transphobic shit, being passed as a cheap joke There should ve been a trigger warning for this.An icing on top, one of the character also said something very biphobic Alas, this character also never got called out I nod So is Inez bi or what Last I heard, she identifies as heteroflexible Derek laughs again So she s a step up for me My last relationship ended because it turned out his idea of bi meant screwing every other guy within a hundred foot radius and then lying about it I pause with my drink halfway to my mouth Wait, what did you say Oh, it s nothing bad Heteroflexible means she mostly likes guys, but not always She thinks it s accurate for her than bi I understand books aren t perfect, but when you re representing a single group, you don t have to throw the rest of the LGBTQ clause under the bus to make your book relatable.The prose the author was aiming to deliver was about how difficult it is to figure out your sexuality and gender identity It s daunting and confusing Though, sadly the execution of it was perplexing, instead of being enlightened I feel oddly winded up I see that s the reason why a lot of readers felt bereft with What We Left Behind.Lastly, the relationship between the two main characters had so much potential But, once again, it failed disastrously There s a lot of undermining on both of their parts, it s painstaking to read If you re looking for a book with a good f f or wlw, this is not it I supposed, the purpose of it was to show how to navigate relationship when you re a teen Even though, that s the case Gretchen easily become very dear to me I just wish the story was fleshed out.Jessie Devine s and Adriana s review perfectly captured what went wrong with What We Left Behind I highly recommend reading their nuanced thoughts

  • Kat (Lost in Neverland)

    Want.

  • Adriana

    I agree with this review in every respect Still, I will try to elaborate on my thoughts.This book is problematic in ways than I can describe Do NOT look to this book to educate you on the trans spectrum or the queer community in general This is not good queer representation, even worse genderqueer representation if it can even rightfully be called that , and I would encourage you to avoid it at all costs This is Glee in novel form it wants to be a catchall for ALL THE CHARACTERS, I agree with this review in every respect Still, I will try to elaborate on my thoughts.This book is problematic in ways than I can describe Do NOT look to this book to educate you on the trans spectrum or the queer community in general This is not good queer representation, even worse genderqueer representation if it can even rightfully be called that , and I would encourage you to avoid it at all costs This is Glee in novel form it wants to be a catchall for ALL THE CHARACTERS, all the identities, all the ethnicities, but it ends up having an overflowing cast of underdeveloped, poorly represented characters who lack depth and complexity Again, this book will NOT educate you on the trans spectrum and what it means to identify as genderqueer Genderqueer is NOT a pit stop between binary identities Please don t pick up this book just because it s about an identity other than gay You will learn nothing about any identity mentioned in this book.This book fails to acknowledge the complexity of identity and labels, despite the fact that it s basically 400 pages of pure queer angst at its most dramatic One can be trans and genderqueer One can present as either masculine or feminine or mostly masculine feminine and still be genderqueer People who identify as genderqueer can feel like they fit both parts of the binary, or neither Further, those of us in the queer community who choose to use labels use the best labels that we know how at any given time it s not abnormal for someone to go through many labels in their lifetime Identity and sexuality is fluid people can spend their whole lives figuring it out Does this book acknowledge any of that NO This book fails to represent those who identify as genderqueer in a true and nuanced way, and if you know nothing about the identity, you will walk away from this book confused than ever.This narrative tries to merge prose and queer theory under one cover, but unfortunately every time any of the characters start thinking or talking about identity sexuality labels, the narrative becomes derailed and reads like a textbook or an academic article The theory feels forced and inorganic like it doesn t naturally fit in the story at all This story and this premise were basically created to serve as a soap box, and honestly I feel like the author just used this book as opportunity to rant about queer theory Subject should not overpower character, yet in this case it does Significantly.What s , I could practically see Robin Talley checking off the diversity checklist before my eyes Tell me why both MCs in this book are rich white members of society who are basically gathering friends from every background imaginable, just so they can step back and be like, Ah yes, now my collection is complete Like I said, a literary incarnation of Glee That s the most scathing remark I can manage to convey my disgust.On top of ALL OF THAT, the characters are horrendous I appreciate how awful and unlikeable the two main characters are, because it shows that members of the queer community are not infallible we don t know everything, we re just as confused about labels and theory as anyone else, we make tons of mistakes Bearing that in mind, the characters were still terrible and what s , they were terribly written Cheesy and dramatic to a fault, one dimensional, self involved, incapable of communicating, participants in instalove, I couldn t take either one of the main characters seriously Their problems were transparent and predictable from the very beginning, and I didn t sense that they had changed much by the end of the story, even though they finally had one real confrontation.There are so many little details that this book got absolutely wrong I could probably write a 20 page, single spaced, 0.5 margin essay describing exactly where this story went wrong, but honestly I m exhausted and angry There are as many different experiences as there are people in the queer community, and this book fails to do justice to any of them Because there are so few mainstream YA novels about genderqueer and trans characters, the fact that this book fails to accurately represent either is that much upsetting I ve said it multiple times already, but please do not go into this book hoping to become further educated on the trans spectrum This is not good representation.Biggest disappointment of the year by far

  • Antonia

    Another YA book by the fabulous Robin Talley and it s involving not only homosexuality but transsexuality

  • 1

    Review to comeOkay I ve been looking forward to this review, mainly because I have a lot to say So lately I ve been reading a lot of LGBTQ to broaden my horizons Unfortunately, I haven t liked many of the books in that genre This book was one of those books.Plot So this book was about a lesbian couple who basically have their entire lives planned out together The two girls names are Gretchen and Toni Toni is struggling to find out who she is, and identifying as genderqueer, because she d Review to comeOkay I ve been looking forward to this review, mainly because I have a lot to say So lately I ve been reading a lot of LGBTQ to broaden my horizons Unfortunately, I haven t liked many of the books in that genre This book was one of those books.Plot So this book was about a lesbian couple who basically have their entire lives planned out together The two girls names are Gretchen and Toni Toni is struggling to find out who she is, and identifying as genderqueer, because she doesn t feel male or female Toni is going to be attending Harvard, while Gretchen is going to Tufts, near by Although, when Gretchen unexpectedly gets taken off the wait list for NYU, she decides she wants to go there But she doesn t tell Toni until the night before they leave for college Naturally, Toni is pissed but doesn t show it Apparently this couple never fight Never Is that even possible They ve been dating two years and haven t had an argument Okay, so now all the problems I had with this book 1 They most be all super smart Like, the only colleges mentioned were Harvard, BU, NYU, Tufts, and Yale which I know are all extremely hard schools to get into Also, they were like the only colleges I knew when I was little, meaning they re very well known had seemed to be picked just because they re well known 2 Toni goes to Harvard but never goes to class They complain about homework and studyingbut that s it Like, not a single class or teacher was mentioned I feel like in these books there s always a supportive teacher to guide the students way through life and accepting who you are 3 Again, the fact they never fight My last complaint is how confusing it was There are so many characters and they were all introduced at once Most of the characters were LGBTQ, but it was hard to figure out if they were trans, or bi, or gay or lesbian, or genderqueer, like Toni It was never clearly specified what the multiple characters identify as, and I kind of had to figure it out myself Also, Toni and Gretchen both had close guy friends at their separate school, but for some reason I kept getting them confused Overall, I really liked the idea of this book but I was just very confused and felt like there were a lot of loose ends like Does Gretchen ever rekindle her friendship with her best friend at NYU sorry, I forgot his name What happens with Tony and his mom Does Tony get the surgery Are Tony and Gretchen back together Who really cares about Chris s relationship with Steve Would Gretchen still be lesbian if she s dating a trans woman or man, whatever Tony identifies as What happens to Tony s sister Audrey