When You Leave by Monica Ropal was a fun read. It started off really fun and light-hearted, and soon turned dark. I’m not going to lie, the book took me by surprise, so much so that I had a tough time moving past it and getting into the story after a surprise, but once I did, it was totally worth.
A story about a skater girl, Cass, who was transplanted by her mother and stepfather from public school into a private school where she felt she didn’t belong. Cass only wanted to get through the year as quietly and as invisibly as possible. Then she met Cooper, and everything changed. He was different than all the other polo-wearing preppies at St. Bernadette’s. When someone close to Cass is murdered and another friend of her’s is the suspect, she can only focus on proving that the police are wrong, and her year of invisibility at school is gone.
The story was good. It wasn’t the best ever, but there was definitely the element of surprise in it. Unfortunately, like I said earlier, the fact that I got thrown off caused me to have a hard time picking the book back up again. The plot developed well. There wasn’t a time when I felt Ropal was spending too much time on exposition or over developing the story. I think the thing that I appreciated most about the book was the character development, so here are my thoughts on that.
The characters are often my favorite part of any book that I read because I throw myself into their place mentally and emotionally, and these characters did not disappoint. It is always extremely important that the characters, or at least the main character, have a good character arc. Often times the secondary characters are rather flat and there isn’t much development in who they are as people throughout the story. In When You Leave, however, almost all of the characters have some sort of arc. Of course, the most time is spent on Cass, due to the fact that she is the protagonist. She struggles with things like fitting in at a new school, new friends vs. old friends, dating, trust, and parents that she thinks don’t care. Cass learns from all of these things and in most cases comes out on the other side with a different viewpoint and appreciation. But, like I said, what I loved most was that almost all of the secondary characters experience some sort of character arc. Mattie, Cass’s best friend learns to understand Cass’s relationship with Cooper. Cass’s other friend, Franklin, eventually goes through the same thing with the people Cass started hanging out with at St. Bernadette’s. Cass’s friends at St. B’s go through a similar process in regards to Cass’s public school friends.
Cass’s mom and stepdad, while they don’t necessarily have a character arc throughout the book, there is change at the end of the story in which there is a realization that Cass can’t handle everything going on around her on her own. Eventually her mom does take note of that and asks her what’s wrong and if she needs anything. As an educator, I think this particular change in character resonated with my emotional side the most because so often I see students whose parents don’t care or think their child can handle everything on their own, and so often, that is not the case. Even though your teenager doesn’t want to talk to you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want you to talk to them.
Overall, it was a good story. It gave the reader a glimpse in to the microcosm of teenage life and the drama that is involved even when there is not a major plot twist. I would recommend it to both adult readers and teenage readers alike. I think there are some interesting things that adults can learn from the characters in this story.