A teenage father struggles to cope with grief, guilt, and his daughter.
When Ryden falls in love with Meg, he thinks the biggest challenge is her melanoma. But then Meg gets pregnant and forgoes chemotherapy to have the baby, only to die just before giving birth. Now he's got baby Hope to care for, guilt and grief over Meg, and a million other worries, all realistically detailed by Verdi. How can he manage school, a job, and a baby, let alone get a soccer scholarship to UCLA? Feeling like he's failing as a father is just the straw that breaks the camel's back. Only Joni, his quirky, cool co-worker, helps keep his mind off his problems—because she doesn't know about any of them. But if Ryden doesn't deal with his grief and guilt, he won't be able to be a good son, a good boyfriend, or a good father. That's why finding three of Meg's journals, ones she left for him, seems so important. But will they hold the answers he needs? This combination of teen-pregnancy and sick-teenager tropes works thanks to Ryden's blend of maturity and selfishness. His candid voice is endearing, and although his present-tense narration at first seems like every other teen novel on the shelf, the granulated iteration of baby details helps to illuminate the crushing burden he feels. Other characters are also well-drawn, and the plot moves along tidily to a satisfying conclusion.
Verdi balances her plot elements deftly in a read that could have gone terribly wrong in less sure hands. (Fiction. 14-18)