The Leaving Season – Cat Jordan – HarperTeen – Published 1 March 2016
Middie Daniels calls it the Leaving Season: the time of year when everyone graduates high school, packs up their brand-new suitcases, and leaves home for the first time.
This year Middie’s boyfriend Nate is the one leaving. Nate, who’s so perfect that she can barely believe it. Nate, who makes her better than she is on her own. Nate, who’s promised to come back once he’s finished his gap year volunteering in Central America. And when he does, it’ll be time for Middie to leave, too. With him.
But when a tragedy strikes, Middie’s whole world is set spinning. No one seems to understand just how lost she is… except for Nate’s slacker best friend Lee. Middie and Lee have never gotten along. But with the ground ripped out from under her, Middie is finding that up is down—and that Lee Ryan might be just what she needs to find her footing once more.
What happens when you lose the person who defines you? When is it okay to move on? Is it ever okay? What happens when you realise you’d like to be someone else, someone more like you, the real you, the without-that-other-person you?
I really enjoyed his book. I was intrigued to see where it would go, what its focus would be – grief, romance or self-discovery? We get a little of each, but I’m happy to say that it’s mainly the latter two. And by then, I was captivated by the story.
Middie is about to start her senior year of high school. Her long-term boyfriend, Nate, is leaving for Central America where he plans to spend his gap year in a volunteer program. Middie is sad to see him go and spends her time desperately trying to stay in contact and reassure Nate of just how much she loves and misses him. NM4eva. But then the worst happens. The village Nate is staying in is attacked and all who were there are killed. Middie’s life is completely turned over. She doesn’t know who she is without Nate, can see no meaning in going to school or planning for college. The only person who understands is Lee, Nate’s best friend. Lee and Middie slowly work through their hate relationship to form a truce in grief. But hanging with Lee is different than Middie expected, he is different than expected. And maybe, Middie is a little different than she ever expected, too.
When the story starts Nate is still alive and is just about to leave for Central America. Reading the first chapter was a little heartbreaking, knowing what was coming. And yet it is the perfect way to introduce us to the Middie who loves Nate. It makes Nate’s death all the more understandable in the way that it impacts Middie. What follows is the inevitable news and Middie’s grief and confusion. The time of this section flows quickly as the days turn into weeks for Middie. And of course, the bright spots are her interactions with Lee. They have always bumped heads, fighting over Nate and being jealous of the time the other gets to spend with him. But like two magnets who repel but when switch and slam into place, Lee and Middie work together. I loved their interactions, their fights, their chemistry. For me, this book was always going to be about Middie with Lee (sorry Nate). What surprised me, though, was that this book was far more about Middie’s self-discovery than it was about romance. And yet the romance is enchanting. Lee is a live-in-the-moment kind of guy and that makes for adventures and acting on impulses and all those sorts of things that make readers go…sigh.
I didn’t like Nate. Everyone in the book thinks he is perfect, perfect for Middie, but I thought he was too controlled (and far too controlling). So this book wasn’t a tear-jerker for me. Okay, he’s dead, moving on (harsh, I know, sorry). I also didn’t like the way Middie sometimes treated Lee. Her condescending attitude – not cool. But hey, she’s human. Mistakes and learning from them are par for the course. And I think she does learn, though she slips up a bit. Some people might be worried about the potential for love-triangle drama or issues with cheating or moving on too soon. I didn’t have a problem with any of that, don’t think they played any great part in the story.
You might have heard from other reviews that this book contains a twist. Maybe someone will give away spoilers or maybe you’ll see it coming like I did. But that’s not the point. This isn’t a murder mystery, it’s not about guessing the right clues. It’s a book about Middie finding who she wants to be and choosing the people who best help define that person.
I enjoyed the writing style, quickly being sucked into the story. I liked the great range of characters, everyone from Middie’s younger sister Emma to Middie’s group of friends who are supportive but never pushy or in her face. I loved the scenes between Middie and Lee. I loved Lee, who is impulsive and sweet and just a little bit dangerous (especially to a girl’s heart). I liked the end, nicely wrapped up but not tied with a bow. But ultimately this is Middie’s story. She is the focus. She is the heroine of her own story and the writer of her own future, and I really liked that.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Grief, relationships, death, family, friendship, romance, college, coming of age, self-discovery.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, f***, s***. Vaguely implied sexual scenes. Descriptions of death and violence, minimal details.
Published: 1 March 2016 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 352 pages.