Title: The Leaving Season
Author: Cat Jordan
Pages: Hardcover, 352
Publication: March 1, 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.
It happens every late August, but 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 tragedy strikes, Middie’s whole world is set spinning. No one seems to understand just how lost she is…except for Nate’s best friend Lee.
Middie and Lee have never gotten along. She’s always known that she was destined for great things, and Lee acts like he’s never cared about anything a day in his life. 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.
I was given an ARC of this book by HarperTeen in trade for a fair review. All opinions in this review are mine and not influenced by others.
I’ve literally just finished reading this book. Well, when I’m writing this review I will have just finished this beautiful and amazing book. I wasn’t expecting much from this book. I thought that it would just be a quick, fun, easy contemporary read, but it became so much more than that.
This book starts off where most contemporary books end. The girl has the guy. Said guy is literally perfect. However, from the get go, The Leaving Season turns that trope on its head. Middie’s perfect guy is leaving on a gap year, and she won’t see him for a while. Middie is pretty devastated by this. For ten years of her life, Nate has been a steady constant. He’s been her rock and her crutch. In fact, she even describes her life and relationship with him as “perfect,” which for me seems pretty unrealistic. As someone who graduated high school last June, I had no concept of the word perfect. But I think this is a deliberate choice. Cat Jordan wants us to see Middie as someone who is deluded by her expectations of life.
However, everything changes when Nate goes missing. Pretty soon, he’s presumed dead. This really struck a cord with me. Middie’s reaction to the possible death of the love of her life is devastating to her. I recently lost my grandma, who has always been a constant rock in my life, so I was literally sobbing like a baby during this scene. Cat Jordan took such an emotionally harrowing scene and handled it with such grace. To be at the receiving end of Middie’s internal monologue while she is buried in such intense grief is heartbreaking.
But for both her and us, we, luckily, get a sun to break through the clouds. Lee comes in to save Middie from her devastating grief because he understands exactly how she’s feeling. With just one word, he captures both mine and Middie’s heart: Breathe.
The development of the relationship between Middie and Lee is one of my favorite things of this novel. I honestly think that I can’t quite articulate how I feel about it because I loved it so much. They go from being patronizing acquaintances to people who genuinely love and care for each other. This trope right here, ladies and gentlemen, is my weak spot. Cat Jordan does it so well. As a reader, you can sense the subtle changes in their relationship (which are brilliant and beautiful), but Middie doesn’t realize her completely changed feelings until everything else changes. Again.
After Middie and Lee sleep together, a scene that is so freaking amazing I can’t even articulate it, there’s a huge plot twist that I wasn’t expecting. Nate is alive, and it changes everything. Middie feels so guilty for everything that she’s felt/still feels for Lee because her boyfriend is still alive. This becomes a catalyst for Middie to finally realize that it’s okay to change and grow and that it’s not her fault for wanting to do so. This is such an important message.
I just really need to say something on how Cat Jordan tackles the concept of change. With her beautifully crafted words and genuine dialogue, she reminds us that change is inevitable. Things come along and make our lives different (and sometimes difficult), and we have to deal with the consequences. From Middie’s story, we learn that there are two ways that you can deal with this change. You can either sit back and let the change bury you or you can accept, embrace, and allow it to form you. This message is something that we all have trouble dealing with, and this book shows us that it’s okay to change.
The end of this book is so incredibly powerful. Not only are the relationships between Nate/Middie and Lee/Middie resolved, but I think that Middie finally finds herself. The ending tells us that life is messy, and that’s okay.
Life is messy. Plans are written and rewritten, tossed up and down and around. The only way to find out who you really are is to take a risk, a leap, a walk under a waterfall. When you stop worrying that you’ll have nothing, then you know you’re on the right path.
God, guys this book was so good. What started out as reading a contemporary book on a whim transformed into reading a book that means so much to me. It means everything to me. People leave, things change, and at the end of the day, you have to be happy with yourself because that’s all you will always have.
As Cat Jordan so poignantly quotes Walt Whitman in the last chapter, people “contain multitudes.”
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