Life works in mysterious ways.
Four years ago I became known as the girl with cancer.
I refuse to cry.
And I refuse to give in.
A relationship with a man is the last thing I’m looking for right now, but one night with Parker changes everything. He is persistent, and he knows what he wants. Me.
He doesn’t treat me like I’m fragile.
But he doesn’t know, and I’m not ready to tell him.
What if it changes everything?
Tragedy found me when I was seventeen.
Love found me when I was twenty-one.
My name is Aundrea McCall, and this is my journey.
5 out of 5 stars
There will always be that one book where you read the synopsis and think ‘damn this book is going to break me in two’ and I knew I had to read it. Downloaded and read on Christmas Day, it took me roughly three hours to read it all and I was a shaking wreck by the end of it. Sobs were actually erupting from me and I was loud – got to say I was surprised I didn’t wake up the parents with my crying, sniffing and gasping.
What’s Left Of Me tugged at my heart from the very first page. I was invested in all the characters, especially Aundrea – or Dre as they call her. Her survival made me question my own life, made me question what I would do if I had to go through cancer three damn times. Would I just break down and say ‘I cant do this anymore’ or power my way through and be determined to fight once more? It’s hard to put yourself in that situation but you can damn near try to!
Reading books about cancer always tears a new one in me. I’ve lost two important people to cancer and the pain never goes away. You really connect with each character who is close to Dre. From her parents, her big sister Genna and her husband Jason, to her best friend Jean and her ‘friend’ Parker. Although Parker has no idea that Dre has cancer, they all have their own ways of dealing with the prognosis and their own way of acting around Dre.
You should already know the gist of what this amazing book is from the synopsis. What’s Left Of Me is about Aundrea. She’s been fighting cancer since the age of 17 and now at 21 its back for a third time. With her Doctor wanting to try a new trial or error drug, Aundrea moves in with her sister and husband where the trial drug is. This is where she meets Parker. He’s Jason’s new partner at the Veterinary surgery and he is drawn to Dre from first meet.
Dre likes him too but she is scared to get too close. She hasn’t told him about the cancer, wanting him to see her for her, not as the girl with cancer. She’s scared of everything – from getting married, to having children to even seeing her future. What if she gets better only to leave everyone she loves behind? She tries to tell herself she and Parker are just friends but its only a matter of time before they fall in love….but what happens when Parker finds out about the cancer? Will he leave her like she knew he would or stick with her throughout everything?
You can see that they all love her to death, they want her comfortable, want her to get better but at certain points you know they are mollycoddling Dre, whether its fear or worry, everyone acts different around her…apart from her best friend Jean. Jean, to me, acted the way I would want people to – normally, just like she used to before the dreaded diagnosis. Jean treats her like there is no cancer, she forces Dre to take control of her life, to explore it, be free and not let the cancer hold her back. You really need someone like Jean in your life when all you can think of is the cancer. You need someone to just set you free for a while, make you feel ‘normal’ and Jean certainly was that person.
Genna and Jason are always there for Dre. Rescheduling their work commits to be there for her when shes so sick from the chemo that she cant move, she’s in so much pain, being sick….you can see just how much Dre means to them and seeing her so ill cuts them apart. You know, if you have sibling, how much you hate it when they are really ill, so for Genna to act strong, despite worrying so much over Dre, you can sympathise with her over that. You can understand why Genna at times, was pissing Dre off over her fussing and questions but you can see that is just sisterly love, you hate to see your sibling in pain and will do whatever you can to make them feel better – to take the pain away yourself. Dre and Genna’s relationship is strong and you can totally see how close they are, how much they love one another and one scene in particular felt like I was being stabbed. It was definitely emotionally charged between them, but I think Genna needed to hear everything Dre had to say.
For someone who has battled cancer for 4 years, 3 times over, Dre is an inspiration. She is strong, in every way despite how afraid she is of her future. You know that dealing with being the ‘girl with cancer’ changes the way people look and act around you, just look at her parents and sister, so I understood why Dre didn’t want to tell Parker about the cancer even if I didn’t really agree. But to leave him in the dark meant he saw her for her. This carefree, strong, funny young woman who wasn’t battling for her life.
He didn’t treat her as someone with cancer, he treated her like ‘normal’ and that is all she wanted. I understood she needed someone to see her as Dre, not the girl with cancer. Although she wasn’t looking for a relationship, wasn’t looking to fall in love, you can see the deliberation she was going through…They both had feeling for each other yet Dre kept him an arms length away. She did this out of fear that he would leave her when he found out. I truly did understand why she wanted to be herself, at least for a while before letting Parker know she had cancer. It changes everything.
The hospital scenes with Dre had me in knots. From seeing her happy and laughing to then seeing her hooked up on the machine to seeing her madly sick the way that followed had me gasping to swallow and my stomach was in a constant state of dread. I was willing Dre to feel better, to be the one to comfort her, to watch over her at night, to ease the pain away. You really do connect with Aundrea, wanting to help her through the pain, take it away. You cry along with her, feel happy with her and you do go through all her emotions with her.
I adored Parker. He’s a cheeky flirty chap and you can see just how important Dre is to him. He may not understand her reasoning to just be friends, alas he is in the dark, but he doesnt give up on her either. If friends is what Dre wants, then fine, but he will try to make her change her mind every day. He takes her out on dates, makes her happy, the two of them together banter so much its so funny to witness but you feel that connection between them, both emotionally and physically. Parker makes Dre feel free, feel normal. He shows her how sexy and amazing she is and you know he’s fallen for her fast. Friendship is out the question now, he wants her to be his. When he does find out, I was crying along with Dre, my heart constricting over his reaction, but dear god Parker, you have some strength in you, you were there for her, holding her, letting her tell you everything in her own time.
“You own me, Aundrea. I couldn’t walk away from you if I tried. The second I laid eyes on you that night, in the mirror, I knew it.” He takes my hands in his, squeezing gently. “I would be a damn fool to let you slip away from me. I am so unbelievably in love with you.”
He is there every step of the way through her last chemo’s. You can see just how much he loves her. He is afraid himself of now losing the one person who owns him, but he will do whatever he can to prove that she is still Dre. To help her overcome her fear of going out without her wig. He still sees her as the woman he loves, as Dre, not Dre, the girl with cancer and I commend him so much on this. She didn’t want him to know because of that very thing, and they both fight the fear together. He does something to extraordinary that I stopped and had to reread what he had done. The smile and giggle on my face, with tears streaming down makes him such a breath of fresh air in my eyes. To do that just for Dre, to prove that she can be herself, not let the cancer take her over and show everyone outside she isn’t bothered about their looks, he does it in a heartbeat.
Their love for each other is stronger than ever. So Dre has cancer, that doesnt change Parker’s feelings for her at all and Dre loves him for that. He treats her like he always did and it helps the fact he is charming, sweet and oh so sexy in and out the bedroom!
That epilogue. THAT EPILOGUE DAMN NEAR RIPPED MY HEART OUT AND SHREDDED IT INTO TINY PIECES! No word of a lie, I sobbed hard, so hard I thought I was going to lose my breath at some point. Then after the book finished, I sat crying my eyes out until the pain slowly eased away. At points I was shaking, my hands were shaking and tears blurred my vision but I had to get to the end, I had to see what the fricking hell was happening.
For a debut, I applaud Amanda with everything! This book, despite being emotional and all the feels is truly about surviving, about falling in love and wanting to be free. Free to love, to have a future and to be free of cancer. You watch Dre’s journey throughout the book, watch her fall in love, watch her go through procedures and watch how love makes her stronger. At times you will fall with her but you know that she will have Parker or Genna and her parents to pick her back up again. Amanda doesnt hold back, she makes you believe you are in the book, holding Dre’s hand, being her friend and going through everything Dre is. It’s real.
Seriously, give this book a read. I have one massive book hangover