Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen

Title: What She Left Behind
Author: Tracy Bilen
# Of Pages: 256           
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Level: Young Adult
Rating: 5 Hearts


(From Amazon.com)

In this suspenseful thriller, Sara and her mother are going to secretly escape her abusive father—when her mother mysteriously disappears.

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.

My Verdict

What She Left Behind exceeded my every expectation. I hadn’t heard much about it beforehand, but after seeing the eerie cover I knew I had to read it, and I’m so glad I did. 

The book centers around Sara, a shy, soft-spoken girl who’s just trying to cope with her new life. Before Sara’s family moved from Philly they were one big happy family, her mom, dad, and older brother, Matt. That all changed when they moved to the small town of Scottsfield, Michigan and Matt commited suicide. Ever since then her father has become abusive, taking out his anger on Sara’s mother, blaming her for what happened to their son.

Each chapter is categorized by a day of the week. I liked this idea, it helped me to keep track of things. One of the other things I thought was neat, was how all of Sara’s writing assignments for this one class were included. Through these writing assignments we learn more about Sara’s past and the relationship between her and her brother, Matt. I felt like it was a creative way for us to learn more and get a better understanding of Sara.

The tension in this book was incredible! I was on high alert the whole time, looking over my shoulder, jumping and gasping from shock. The author did such an amazing job creating real, three-dimensional characters. The struggles that Sara is going through and how she deals with them seemed completely realistic for a girl in her situation. The dad was absolutely terrifying, like you got the chills whenever he showed up kind of thing.

Here’s a teaser quote that will make your skin crawl:

My heart pounding, I make my way down the hallway to my parent’s room and turn on the light.
   I stifle a scream. My dad is sitting on the bed, fully clothed, and completely awake. In the dark.
   ‘I didn’t think anyone was home,’ I say.
    My dad just stares. I’m used to his silence by now, but this is excruciating.
    ‘Your mom’s gone,’ he says matter-of-factly.

Bilen creates this incredibly realistic picture of an abusive relationship, as well as a heart-pounding mystery and a budding romance. This book has it all folks. 


  1. Somehow I just know that I'm going to feel everything you mentioned in this review, Amanda! The shiver, the heart-pounding feeling, and the skin crawl! I feel bad for Sara simply by reading your review! I really want to hug her right now for all the hard things in life she has to face! Abuse in family always get me very sad.

    Fantastic review, Amanda! <3 I completely overlooked this book, but this one sounds like a keeper! I'll make sure to check out this book the next time. :)

    1. Family abuse is definitely a hard subject to read about. I instantly felt for Sara and wished I could help her escape from her father! If and when you pick up this book I'm sure you will enjoy it =D

  2. Thanks for the review Amanda-this one sounds chilling and compelling!

    1. It sure is! I couldn't put it down, I was so on edge I had to know what happened next!

  3. When I first read the opening, I thought of the daily news of disappearances. But, your enthusiasm escalated and made me want to read this book. Love the cover. Great review Amanda.

  4. Ooooo lots of tension you say Amanda? I love tension, and I love the books that keep me on the edge of my seat the whole time I'm reading. Those are usually the ones that keep me up all hours of the night reading and cause me to spend the next day at work as a complete waste of space, but it's so worth it:) And that was a heck of a teaser! Now I absolutely must know what's going to happen in this book.


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