Originally published: March 2019 (This edition February 2020)
Author: Sarah Crossan
Published by: Bloomsbury
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 416 pages
Reading dates: 3-4 March 2020
I have been a huge fan of Sarah Crossan’s young adult books since 2017, when I went along to a Waterstones event with a friend to hear her talk with Brian Conaghan about how they wrote We Come Apart together. I read the wonderful One just before the event and I was blown away. Written for older teenagers, her work is mostly written in verse, which make her books perfect for reluctant readers as they are easily accessible, yet write about quite hard hitting subjects.
Toffee came out when I had got a bit silly with my commitments to blog tours which is why it took me so long to read it!
Toffee is about a teenage girl called Allison who has run away from home. It isn’t safe for her at home – her dad is often violent and she leaves, deciding to travel to her dad’s ex-fiancée. When she arrives at the address she was given she finds that Kelly-Ann is no longer there and with very little money and no-where to sleep, she finds a shed in the garden of what she thinks is an abandoned house and spends the night there.
The next morning she realises the house isn’t empty – an elderly woman called Marla lives there who is lonely and often confused. She mistakes Allison for a friend from her past called Toffee and invites her in.
I tell Marla my real name,
And she uses it for a while,
Not looking at me,
then continues to call me Toffee.
She thinks that’s who I am,
so I stop correcting her,
I like the idea of being
sweet and hard,
a girl with a name for people
to chew on.
A girl who could break teeth.
Allison is used to hiding who she really is and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so Toffee is who she becomes, as Allison realises just how much Marla needs a real friend.
Despite being over 400 pages, this is a quick, yet emotional read. I have to force myself to slow down when I read Crossan’s work as I really feel the urge to savour every word. She doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, like child abuse (in this book), immigration (The Weight of Water) and even the death penalty (Moonrise) and I think teenagers should be reading about these topics, set very much in the world we live in.
It is heart-breaking as we find out the details of Allison’s abuse at the hands of her father. And seeing Marla’s dementia is also very sad. But I loved the strange friendship between these two – in her more lucid moments, Marla is concerned about what happened to Allison’s face (her dad’s handiwork). Allison doesn’t abuse Marla’s situation – she cooks for her and helps her clean and keeps her company. When Marla has an occasional visit from her son. Allison simply hides upstairs and listens with disgust at the way her speaks to his mum.
A story of friendship between two very different women, this was an emotional, yet wonderful read. Another fantastic and original book by Crossan, if you haven’t discovered her yet, I urge you to do so!
About the author:
Sarah Crossan is Irish. She graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Literature before training as an English and Drama teacher at Cambridge University and worked to promote creative writing in schools before leaving teaching to write full time.
She completed her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Warwick in 2003 and in 2010 received an Edward Albee Fellowship for writing.
She currently lives in NYC.