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Location: Brooklyn, NY, United States

18 November 2015

What We Left Behind

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley is a book about first love and finding oneself.

Toni and Gretchen fell in love the night they met - at a Homecoming dance. Toni walked into the dance a local celebrity after winning a lawsuit against the all girl's school allowing Toni to wear pants. Gretchen came to the dance with a family friend after moving to town the day before - it was her introduction to her new school.


Toni and Gretchen are a couple that everyone envies. They are completely in love, never fight and are going to college in the same city. Except they are not. Gretchen tells Toni the night before they leave that she will not be in Boston because she will be going to New York University.

They are both sure that, though they will be a few hours apart, their relationship is strong enough to make it. Toni starts Harvard, making new friends and joining one of the queer groups on campus. Meeting new friends, including some trans people, has given Toni the idea that maybe instead of being genderqueer, maybe Toni is actually trans.

Gretchen starts at NYU. She meets a couple of new friends and runs into someone she competed against in debate all around the country. She is sad about the distance between herself and Toni, but excited to be back in New York where she grew up.

Talley has written a story of first love, expanding horizons and self discovery. Her debut novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, established her a brilliant storyteller whose characters are people we would want in our own lives. Her portrayals, both race and queer issues, are thought-provoking and spot on. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. If you haven't yet read either of her books, start one now.

Talley, Robin. (2015). What We Left Behind. New York: Harlequin Teen.

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