Welcome to Day #5 of the What We Left Behind Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (10/27/15), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Robin, as well as 10 chances to win a copy of What We Left Behind or a 7-book LGBT YA Prize Pack chosen by Robin herself in the Grand Prize Giveaway!
My first book, Lies We Tell Ourselves, is unequivocally categorized as young adult. Its main characters are 17 and 18, and it’s set during the spring of their senior year of high school. Sometimes it’s been called “upper” or “older” YA ― maybe due to the characters’ ages, or maybe due to its serious themes (it explores school integration and life in the closet in 1959 Virginia) ― but I’ve never heard anyone suggest it’s anything but a YA novel.
With my new book, though, I’m getting asked about category all the time. What We Left Behind focuses on two 18-year-olds and is set during the characters’ first semester of college. In terms of the characters’ ages, it’s set only a few months later than Lies We Tell Ourselves ― LWTO ends in June of the year lead characters Sarah and Linda graduate from high school, and WWLB starts in August, shortly after its leads, Toni and Gretchen, have finished high school themselves ― but because the bulk of WWLB takes place while Toni and Gretchen are in college, it could be classified as new adult instead of young adult.
In my opinion, What We Left Behind is young adult, because I think of “new adult” as a genre name applied to romance novels starring characters in their very late teens or early twenties. What We Left Behind has a romance in it, but it isn’t a romance novel in the traditional sense (I don’t want to say much more about that part for fear of spoilers!)
But for some readers and writers, the term “new adult” doesn’t necessarily equal romance novel ― for some, being set in college is enough to make a book NA. For those readers, What We Left Behind is NA, and that’s fine with me! I just don’t want to go around saying that because I’d hate trick anyone into thinking they’re getting traditional romance genre conventions. I know how frustrating it can be when you’re in the mood to read a particular genre and you pick up a book that turns out to be anything but.
When I first got the idea for What We Left Behind several years ago, though, I didn’t really think much about this. Way back then, “new adult” was still a tiny corner of the publishing world, and most people weren’t sure exactly what it was. Meanwhile, YA books set in college were few and far between. But I was still an unpublished writer with no idea if I’d ever sell a book, so I didn’t think much about that either.
Instead, I was focused on my characters and their story. And it was a college story, through and through.
What We Left Behind follows Toni and Gretchen, a devoted, practically-married high school couple whose relationship has never faced a single challenge ― until they suddenly find themselves hundreds of miles apart, starting college on different campuses, in different cities, surrounded by different people. They’re positive they’ll be able to make it work ― they’ll visit, they’ll talk, they’ll text, they’ll Skype ― because they’re in love, and love conquers all.
And it does. But what Toni and Gretchen don’t know ― and what a lot of teenagers facing this huge life change will soon realize ― is that geography is really just one tiny piece of what changes when you leave the home you’ve always known to start a new life. In their new environments, Gretchen and Toni still have each other, but now they’re each being exposed to a much bigger world, too, and they have to figure out how to carve out their place in it.
And that’s what college is really all about. Yeah, it’s about friends, and papers, and independence. But the heart of the college experience is about having the freedom to find yourself.
Maybe that makes What We Left Behind new adult, and maybe not. To me, it’s really just a story about Toni and Gretchen finding their places in the world ― together, and apart.
Stop by I Read Banned Books on Monday for Day #6 of the tour!
From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of 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?
GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY
- One (1) winner will receive a 7-book LGBT YA Prize Pack featuring the 5 novels chosen by Robin in Day #1’s post (The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King, If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, Far From You by Tess Sharpe, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson), plus copies of both of Robin Talley’s novels (What We Left Behind and Lies We Tell Ourselves)
- Enter via the rafflecopter below
- US/Canada Only
- Ends 11/1 at midnight ET
a Rafflecopter giveaway