Rummanah Aasi
    Suspenseful and chilling are the two words that best describes Tracey Bilen's debut novel, What She Left Behind. Readers looking for a character driven thriller may be disappointed, but those seeking for a page-turning plot What She Left Behind will fit your needs.

Description (from Goodreads): “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

Review: When we begin What She Left Behind, Sara and her mother are plotting to leave their town in a desperate attempt to escape from Sara's abusive father. They both agree to pack their bags with only their necessities and meet at the local Dairy Dream as planned, but her mother never shows up. Although her father claims she's on a business trip, Sara fears that something is terribly wrong. With her own growing anxiety and fears coupled with witnessing her father's increasingly erratic behavior, Sara puts on an exterior that says everything is okay until she can assemble enough clues to find her mother.
 Sara does a decent job in trying to be normal. She allows herself to get a bit sidetracked by getting involved in a budding romance with the high school football star. I was fine with the hint of romance in the book as it wasn't unnecessarily thrown in, but served a purpose. Sara's mother's disappearance follows her like a shadow so the light romance enables her to have just a few moments of lightness in her dark, dreary life. Despite the momentary smiles we witness during these moments of reprieve, we continuously feel Sara's isolation and confinement, which are clearly expressed in her free-writing assignments and internal dialogue.
  I often times wondered why Sara doesn't seek out help from the domestic abuse, but then I chillingly remembered that Sara's abusive father is a well known and liked retired cop in her small rural town, which means there is hardly anyone would either believe her or much worse, report back to her father. With the clock counting down, however, Sara has no choice in letting some people help her.
  Though I thought Sara was pretty likable, her father is repulsive but there is a very small part of me that felt sorry for him. We don't get too much information about her father, but we do know that he was traumatized by an incident on the job. He has also clearly suffers from mental illness which may have been sparked by the sudden death of Matt, Sara's brother. Sara's father has become delusional and acts as if Matt is still alive.  With a suspenseful plot and short chapters, Bilen effectively thrills the reader until the very last page and would be a good choice for high school reluctant readers. The ending reveals a chilling picture of domestic violence.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: The book contains strong violence and some language. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.  

If you like this book try: Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Just reading your review has me all nervous Rummanah, it would be terrifying to know even if you worked up the courage to report the abuse, you most likely wouldn't be believed because the abuser is a well respected member of the community. And you have be super intrigued by the chilling ending. I need to know what happens!

  2. This intrigues me, I want to know where the mother went, why the dad behaves the way he does and so forth..I have a bad feeling about the ending, though! Thanks for the heads up on this one! It does sound chilling and haunting!

  3. For some reason, this sounds like a good halloween time book. Not because it's a ghost story or anything like that but because it sounds so scary. This seems like one of those books I'd appreciate more than enjoy but I'm curious.

  4. This sounds like a freezer book for me. Either that or I'd be throwing it (note to self... not on the ereader...). Still, it sounds interesting and I'm curious if I would have the same small sorry feeling for the father. Hm...

  5. Kelsey Says:

    I've been wanting to read this! Great, thorough review.

  6. Candace Says:

    Oh man now I want to know what happens! This sounds like a crazy ride of a book. I hadn't heard of it before this but I'm gonna go look it up now.

  7. I'm curious about the ending for this but I get the feeling that the secondary characters aren't as complex as they could be. I'll probably be skipping this one but thanks for the review, Rummanah!

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Wow- awesome review! Ive never heard of this one before and it sounds like a great book for a winter read. Putting it on the "might read it" list...:)

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