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Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Thoughts: What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen

“Don’t even think of leaving… I will find you,” he whispered. “Guaranteed.”

Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara’s abusive father. But when her mom doesn’t show up as expected, Sara’s terrified. Her father says that she’s on a business trip, but Sara knows he’s lying. Her mom is missing—and her dad had something to do with it.

With each day that passes, Sara’s more on edge. Her friends know that something’s wrong, but she won’t endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it’s too late…for them both.

When I signed up for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge I saw the synopsis for Tracy Bilen's debut What She Left Behind it was first on my list of must reads. I did intend to read it as soon as it came out however it took me a couple weeks to get my hands on it and then to finally sit down and read it. But I did eventually read it. What She Left Behind is a short novel, just 237 pages and I flew through it. It took me about a day and a half to read it cover to cover. However, I did have a few issued with the novel.

The story begins with Sara's (she spells her name the same way I do) mother telling her that it was time to leave and to pack her stuff- they were finally going to leave Sara's extremely abusive father- but it had to be a secret. As the blurb above explains Sara's mother disappears before the two can make their escape. 

Now, I feel like what happened was VERY obvious,which is fine, but Sara doesn't see it. She somehow tricked herself into believing that her mother left her ahead of time to go look for living accommodations and a job in their new city. She believes her mother is coming back for her, she just needs to be patient. This is ridiculous. Absolutely insane. Sara knows that her father has previously threatened her mother if she ever attempted to leave and she knows how dangerously violent he is. Ding, ding, ding- warning sign, red flag. I don't know what else to say. I sort of feel like Bilen though that her reading audience were going to be idiots or she was purposely making Sara to look like a complete brainless and cowardly fool. What really irritated me about Sara and her whole response to her situation is how she was still able to meet a boy, go on dates, fall "in love". But still she's freaking out about her mother, and waiting unrealistically for her return. This really frustrated me. 

In saying this, my annoyance with Sara was a large concerns for while reading this novel, and Although I didn't understand why Sara was all of a sudden getting romantically involved with a boy from school-Alex- I absolutely loved him! I thought he was magically written. He was perfect for Sara. He would say the right things, he knew how to get her to open up. It was beautiful. I feel like this is where Bilen put most of energy. Because I was totally and completely compelled by Alex and Sara's relationship. I could gush about it for paragraphs.

But, I am not sure that I loved the climax of this story, to me it felt a little extreme and not that realistic. Sara's dad is crazy and dealing with some heavy stuff but really, the good things about contemporary novels are that they are realistic. What took place at the peak of What She Left Behind was not realistic at all. Sorry.

I am unusually critical of this novel because of it's theme- abusive parents exists and there will be teens who read this novel who are being abused by their parents. I feel like this novel does nothing to encourage a teen as to what to do, who to turn to. Novels that deal with heavy subjects, I believe, have a responsibility to their readers, and unfortunately I don't believe that What She Left Behind followed through.

~Happy Reading Everyone!


  1. Aww, it sounds like the book wasn't al that you expected and that sucks.
    I do agree with you that the books that deal with heavier subjects should be sensible and sensitive about it :/
    Sad this book didn't work as much as you wanted!

  2. Eh, yeah I don't appreciate it when authors write storylines that are so obvious to the reader and not at all to their characters. We're not dumb, hello! And I doubt teen readers are either. Sorry this one didn't live up to your expectations, but I'm with you - the best contemporary novels are actually realistic.

  3. Excellent review! Really. Your problems with this book are very sound and I agree that with such a dark, deep subject, some solutions should be offered. I also think that your observation of the relationship between Sara and Alex are very interesting.


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