Review by Sye Perry
Viking Books for Young Readers, March 15, 2022
400 pages, Ebook, $11.99 CAD, 9780593206492
Age 12+, Grade 7+
Julian Winters’ Right Where I Left You is written from the first-person perspective of 18-year-old Isaac Martin during the summer before university. Isaac encounters several problems involving his best friend Diego Santoyo, the new friends Diego is forcing him to make, and crush syndrome suspect Davi Lucas. This book centers around the beloved and hated right-under-your-nose trope, containing all the juicy details of Isaac’s love life, family issues, introverted anxiety, and summer plans. These plans are none other than Legends Con (comic books for Isaac and video games for Diego), Teen Pride, and spending as much time as possible with Diego before he leaves for university.
Everything is going perfect — until crush-distracted Isaac misses out on tickets to Legends Con, setting a series of unfortunate but inescapable events into motion. Isaac learns that eventually, every problem needs to be dealt with, preferably before life deals with it for you.
Right Where I Left You is a familiar love story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. What makes the story refreshing and important is that it is unapologetically queer and diverse, full of the young queer people of color we rarely get to see as main characters having their happy endings. This diverse book showcases characters with a wide variety of sexualities, disabilities and gender identities, highlighting the importance their identities without overshadowing their personhood.
Winters captures the feeling of “the last summer before university” perfectly: everything sunny and sweaty, with good food, good friends, and the lingering sad and/or angry thoughts that make a book plot and life itself go round. All the little relationship dynamics between friends, family, and crushes felt real and relatable, and I could easily see myself and others on the page. This is a gentle read, not incredibly action-filled or something with wild plot twists. It’s the type of book to read casually to fill your time, something light and mostly fluffy, expressing the hardships of life simply and right along with the everyday problems so many people have. The writing is often funny, silly, and goofy filled with text conversations (emojis!), unfulfilled fanfiction tags, and plenty of internet debates about comic books. At other times, the narration is very pretty and poetic, with thought-inducing reflections from Isaac (“Maybe there are friends for laughing and crying and sharing food with while avoiding problems. Maybe every friend has a different purpose”) and intriguing descriptions of his physical world (“action figures hanging from the ceiling like guardian angels”).
Though it is not something I would usually pick up off a shelf, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Right Where I Left You. There were most certainly a lot of feelings while reading: mostly frustration when things didn’t work out, and then extreme giddiness when they did. The strongest parts of the book were definitely the humorous yet lovely descriptive writing and the relationship dynamics between Isaac and his mom, sister, and Diego.
Sye Perry (she/her) is a cis, white, pansexual student at the University of British Columbia. Sye typically enjoys reading fantasy, poetry/verse, and romance novels. A good book for her has to either be really pretty with words and descriptions, have an edge-of-your-seat crazy exciting plot, or give happy romantic stomach butterflies.