Published by Bloomsbury YA on May 2, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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The astonishing new novel from the incomparable, multi-award-winning and Laureate, Sarah Crossan.
I am not who I say I am, and Marla isn't who she thinks she is.
I am a girl trying to forget. She is a woman trying to remember.
Allison has run away from home, and with nowhere to live, finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn't empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there – and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past called Toffee.
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. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be.
But as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself - where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really?
I’ve read all of Sarah Crossan’s books and Toffee is probably my favourite of hers. Like with her other books, Toffee tackles hard-hitting topics in verse and makes us feel all of the emotions. And because it’s written in verse, it’s a really quick but impactful read.
Toffee is a beautiful story about families of choice and finding acceptance and affection in the most unlikely of places. Allison Daniels has run away from her abusive home after her father leaves her face disfigured. But after her belongings are stolen and she finds herself without a phone to contact her former would-have-been stepmother who has also left her father, Allison feels like she’s alone and helpless in the world. She ends up taking shelter in an empty shed and when she realises that the owner of the shed, Marla, has dementia, she decides to take advantage and stay in the spare room of the house. Allison takes on the identity of Toffee, who was Marla’s childhood friend and dance partner. By day, she wanders around outside until Marla’s nurse/support person leaves. By night, she is Toffee, who is vivacious and full of life, and everything Allison wants her own life to be. Allison and Marla’s unlikely friendship grows and they do outrageous things like dancing to Single Ladies, inviting tradesmen in for cocktails and building sandcastles at the beach. Soon, Allison isn’t sure who she is anymore and questions whether she’s better off just being Toffee.
This verse novel is mostly character-driven and these characters were wonderful. They’re complicated but endearing and their stories really resonated with me. Allison has had a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her father, who has been the only parent she has ever known due to her mother dying from childbirth. She’s spent her childhood and adolescence yearning for the little moments of maybe-love that he displays, until she realises that for her own safety (and self-worth) she just can’t stay. Marla, who suffers from dementia, has been the subject of elder abuse at the hands of her son, Donel. Who is a real piece of work. Her day nurse, Peggy, treats her like a child and doesn’t believe the things that Marla says. In fact, some days, Peggy doesn’t even show up to work. Allison and Marla become each other’s only friend and solace. And their friendship is beautiful. Allison makes Marla feel like she isn’t a burden. With Allison (or Toffee), Marla feels young and full of life again. And with Marla, Allison feels seen.
There wasn’t that much plot in the novel but I enjoyed it just the way it was. I loved seeing the progression of Allison and Marla’s relationship, from suspicion to growing acceptance of each other. It was just a beautiful story of letting go of hurt and anger, and embracing a new found family.
If you’ve enjoyed Sarah Crossan’s other books, you will absolutely love Toffee. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the story will touch your heart!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for providing a review copy.
Toffee is available at all Australian retailers for $14.99 RRP.