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What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What happens when love isn't 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, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, 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?

Goodreads Summary

Long distance relationships are difficult and Toni and Gretchen's are no exception.  I wasn't a fan of the two instantly falling in love and it did, at times, feel like there was no substance to their relationship.  The book fell apart for me when it started on the genderqueer path.  Toni is portrayed as someone who is genderqueer and thus must be transsexual.  This isn't the case, however, and an inaccurate portrayal of what it means to be genderqueer.  I wish the author had portrayed Toni more as someone who does not identify with a specific gender...not as someone perpetually confused (confusion does not equal genderqueer).  

It was difficult to like the characters in this book because they were all boxed up neatly and labelled.  Not every straight person is selfish, dumb, or anti-feminist.  It was odd to me that a book I thought would be about anti-labeling seemed to feed into it. Gretchen's character was one I could like, but it just made me think Toni didn't deserve her.  The other characters seemed too ridiculous to believe that they would even likely exist.  I think the author started out with a good purpose and then became lost rather quickly along the way.

2 Stars
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  1. Yeah... this one just isn't for me. I think that I will have to pass on this one.