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When You Leave

Review

When You Leave

Life is full of turbulent changes, and it isn’t always easy. Sixteen-year-old Cass is very familiar with this --- too familiar, in fact. Her father abandoned their family when she was very young, and she, her brothers, and mother struggled against poverty until her mother’s second marriage to a kind but distant wealthy man. Cass also knows what it feels like to be an outsider; she’s just transferred into Saint Bernadette’s, a private school that makes a skater girl like her feel totally out of her element. She’s determined to cruise through the next two years in anonymity, focusing on her studies so she can get into college and make a better life for herself. But this determination is derailed when she falls for her locker neighbor, a senior named Cooper McCay. Cooper initially seems like a typical jock, but he proves that’s he’s much more than that as their romance develops.

Meanwhile, Cass realizes that one of her closest friends, Gav, may be involved with underground drug dealing, which gets him in trouble with students throughout the school, including Cooper and his friends. These two conflicts come to a head when one day, a gruesome discovery is made: Cooper is found murdered in the woods. Suspects begin to bubble up all around Cass, including other women, indicating Cooper might not have been as faithful to Cass as he proclaimed. With the help of her best friend, a fellow skater named Mattie, Cass sets out to find the truth about Cooper’s murder, save Gav from the mess he’s gotten himself into, figure out what she’s really looking for out of life and find security in herself, even though she feels that everyone in her life always ends up leaving her.

A sharp, poignant novel that packs a good punch

The voice in WHEN YOU LEAVE is strong and clear, and I admired that author Monica Ropal avoided using cliché teen language, the kind that makes it sound like they’re trying really hard to portray youths.

Cass was a good protagonist to follow, as she stuck to her motives and stayed true to herself throughout the story, always trying to fix her mistakes and do the best she could without changing herself in ways she didn’t want to. Though she did lie a lot, and that was frustrating, I was okay with it because it made her come across as very human, and to me, it was the sign of a developed, flawed, real character. I liked her relationship with Mattie, even when their newfound romance made it a little bit cliché, because it was very rich and enjoyable to watch unfold on the page. I thought their style of communication was fascinating; Mattie is mute from cancer surgery, and the fact that he could only communicate nonverbally added great depth to their relationship.

The other characters were also well developed, and their complexities, consistent changes and lies came across as genuine. Teenagers fight and make up all the time, and Ropal created characters that were solid enough not to let the waves carry them away. Plus, the conflict resolutions were all realistic.

I did and did not like the constant shifting of romances. On one hand, it was very believable that they would each bounce around between flings and struggle to keep their emotions from controlling them. But on the other hand, it was sometimes a big distraction from the main story --- I just wanted to get back to watching Cass fight to find Cooper’s murderer and rescue Gav from jail. However, many of the relationships served the plot, so in the end, I didn’t mind it too terribly.

Ropal has crafted a novel that I think many young readers will enjoy, with its relatable characters, engaging plot, long supply of twists and turns and deep emotional message very expertly, subtly laid within the text. WHEN YOU LEAVE is a sharp, poignant novel that packs a good punch. It will keep readers turning the pages and thinking about the characters and their personal stories for some time after the back cover closes.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on April 7, 2015

When You Leave
by Monica Ropal

  • Publication Date: April 7, 2015
  • Genres: Family Life, Fiction, Mystery, Romance
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press Kids
  • ISBN-10: 0762454555
  • ISBN-13: 9780762454556