What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
"Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, theirs is bound to stay rock-solid.
The reality of being apart, though, is very different than they expected. Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.
While Toni worries that Gretchen won't understand Toni's new world, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in this puzzle. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begin to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?"- summary from Amazon
I absolutely loved Talley's debut and it was really interesting to read her take now on a more modern relationship (as her first book took place in the beginning days of desegregation). The book shifts between Gretchen and Toni as they prepare for college and throughout their first year at their respective colleges, dealing with new experiences, thought processes, ideas and much more on their own apart from each other. Talley does a wonderful job getting into the head of each of them and providing some real obstacles (both self-imposed and actual) between them as they attempt to navigate a long-distance relationship. The cast of supporting characters come from all walks of life and provide for one of the most diverse books I've probably ever read. There's also a lot of information to be gleaned about understanding genderqueer people as well as all sorts of sexualities and identities and empathizing with their struggles. It's nice too to see a non-hetero relationship in a book already underway in the beginning and dealing with general issues alongside the lack of communication regarding Toni's introduction to other genderqueer people and other labels and her journey to understanding herself, how she feels, and how she presents herself to the world at large.
Overall, a fantastic second book and I am extremely eager to read more from Talley.
FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.