Review: What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen

What She Left Behind
By Tracy Bilen
236 Pages
Published by Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

“Don’t even think of leaving… I will find you,” he whispered. “Guaranteed.”

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.

Every now and then you read a book that makes you realize how good you really have it. What She Left Behind was one of those books for me. I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, but I grew up in a good family. I had a good childhood and I still have a great relationship with my parents. In What She Left Behind, Sara’s life couldn’t be more different from mine. She lives with a volatile and abusive father, a beaten and passive mother, and her beloved brother committed suicide. Which, apparently, her father frequently forgets and goes on tirades about him. Cuckoo.

This was an incredibly tense book. I have no personal experience with domestic abuse, but I find it so heartbreaking. How could someone hit their own wife (or husband) or child? Your family are supposed to be the people you love, take care of, and would do anything for. How do situations get so messed up? What must it be like to live in a house like that? What would it be like to fear your own father? I had so much sympathy for Sara. She was really in a terrible situation. She was in terrible danger from her father, but running away would possibly mean not finding out what happened to her mother, or worse, missing the opportunity to leave with her.

To be completely honest, not a lot happens for much of the book. That said, it didn’t feel pointless or like it was dragging on at any time. It’s all about Sara’s feelings, how she copes with her missing mother, her fears, and her interactions with her father (most of which are truly chilling).

I really liked the way this book ended. It’s not to say that it was necessarily a happy ending, but I thought it was pretty appropriate considering the build-up. I thought the pacing was good and I never felt like it was dragging or found my mind wandering. I tore through the entire book in one sitting (to be fair it’s not very long) and then just sat there for a while, thinking about what I had read.

This was a surprising book for me. I thought it sounded really interesting based on the blurb, but I didn’t expect it to affect me the way it did. I was aghast, nervous, and once or twice I even felt on the verge of tears and I am not a crier. I just felt it was a profoundly moving and raw book.

5/5 Stars

Leave a comment


  1. I can read books like this every once and a while. It sounds like a really great story. I just get too upset. I’ll add it to the pile and maybe when the mood strikes, I’ll give it a go. Nice review!

  2. This sounds pretty amazing. I love a great, emotional read. I’ll put this on my tbr. Thanks for a great review!

  3. Oh gosh, this does sound like a really intense book! I can’t really deal with this books most of the time because I just get so comfortable like the previous comment, upset. The idea of abuse from family is horrifying to me and you’re right, it is really heartbreaking. It seems like a book that would stay with you.


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