Cover Image: Being Toffee

Being Toffee

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Member Reviews

Being Toffee by Sarah Crossan is the third Crossan novel that I have read, and by being a work of contemporary, realistic young adult fiction, it was quite the change from Breathe and Resist, the dystopian, science fiction duology from 2012 and 2013. However, Being Toffee confronts multiple issues, with the most apparent including… domestic violence and abuse, homelessness, dementia, and poverty, all in heartfelt poetic verse. Being Toffee introduces readers to a teenager named Allison who finally decided to leave her broken home, because of the mother she never met died after childbirth; the woman who was supposed to be her stepmother, Kelly-Anne, fled from her father, the “bastard,” for personal reasons, even though she did ask Allison to leave with her; and her mentally and physically abusive father, who she finally decided to ignore, “Every hour I do not call my father is a victory, a declaration: I do not need you. I do not want to be with you.” Allison ends up discovering a place of refuge with Marla, a fragile, elderly woman who believes that Allison is an old friend named Toffee. Allison decides to take this opportunity to become someone else, not simply out of selfish purposes, but also so she can heal and become “… a girl with a name for people to chew on. A girl who could break teeth.” Over time, Allison/Toffee uncovers evidence that Marla is also being neglected by her ill-mannered son, Donal, and her oft-incompetent caregiver, Peggy, and she decides to support Marla and continue seeking out Kelly-Anne while avoiding all abuse and abusers.

Being Toffee by Sarah Crossan is an unexpected and heartwarming read that gives proof that sometimes, the families of our own creation are what is meant to be, after all. I also appreciated a book that focuses on elder care and dementia, as this a topic near and dear to me. However, the novel does shy away from a final sense of closure between Allison and her father, and pushes forward with an ending that makes logical sense in some aspects, but is still a tad bit disappointing. I would have enjoyed knowing more about Marla and her final destination, although, in my mind, I feel like I already know that answer, and I don’t like it any better…

A warm-hearted and much-appreciated thank you to Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy! Please make sure to pick up a copy of Being Toffee at your local book depository.
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I didn't think I was going to get into this book, as reading novels that are written in poetry/prose are hard for me to fall into. However, this one was different. I was pulled in and didn't want it to end. Toffee and Marla are two characters that will stick with me for a while.
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I NEED THIS BOOK. I know I just finished reading an ARC, but I need to go out and get a copy of this, right now. And so do you! This is such a powerful novel in verse. The writing is solid both from the poetic standpoint as well as narrative—not an easy balance to achieve. How the characters relate to each other is so authentic. I had a grandmother with dementia, and connected so much with Marla, and “Toffee.” Their stories unravel so naturally, creating a great sense of suspense and investment. I also love that the ending is hopeful while still being authentic. “Toffee” takes steps to get help in her situation. She finds community. What a great message that even if you are in a difficult situation, you are not alone. There are others who are struggling as well, and there’s help. You don’t need to keep running.

Here are some of my favorite quotes and poems:

Fireworks

Banging and cracking.
Darkness filled with
the dust of gunpowder.
Marla hides beneath her
duvet like a kitten.

Who knows what lurks
in the minds of others—
the grief they have gobbled up
and stashed away?



People

what is it they want anyway?




“Kelly-Anne starts to cry.
I’m so alone, she says.

We all are, I say.
But now we’re alone together.”


If you are looking for a novel in verse to read, this is my top recommendation.
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For the most part, this is a pretty standard verse novel. It doesn't break any new ground, doesn't especially experiment with form or structure. We don't even get a lot of detail about events. This is entirely an emotional exploration. Both Allison and Marla are hiding from truths. Truths that will eventually catch up with them and force them to face reality. We see the subtle change in their relationship from one of mildly guilty convenience to real emotional connection and concern. It's not always a comfortable read but the conversation it prompts is a valuable one and well suited to the verse novel format.
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A beautiful story in verse of a girl escaping an abusive father and finding refuge and home with a woman who has dementia.
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I struggled with this verse novel. I found it difficult to connect with the characters and follow the storyline. The plot was so dismal and dark, yet due to my disconnect from the protagonist I pulled away from the uncomfortable elements and wasn’t invested.
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I generally struggle to read books in verse (I struggle even more to read standard poetry collections, to be frank), but I enjoyed BEING TOFFEE very much once I started to understand the way that the language itself was supposed to be working on me. (I'm sure some formatting issues were the result of reading a digital ARC copy.) This is a contemporary young adult book set in the UK and presented in verse, starring a main character who is the victim of domestic abuse and whose primary goal throughout is to find a place of safety. She connects with an older woman who is experiencing advanced dementia with rare moments of clarity, and into whose house (and closet, and pantry) our titular character invites herself while hiding from her father. On the subject of abuse, I appreciated that Crossan allowed the father-daughter relationship to breathe; there's nuance to their interactions that makes the shoe, when it drops, drop all the harder. The fact that love can coexist with abuse is part of what keeps victims in dangerous situations, and Crossan grasps that. Her eye for detail extends beyond the relational to the descriptive, as well. I found myself, appropriately for a book set near the seashore, swept away.
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This story pulled me in from the very first poem. It left me with so many unanswered questions that I couldn’t wait to turn the page. I enjoyed the way each poem revealed a little more of Sophia’s story, as if squares of a quilt were being illuminated one at a time in a random pattern. There were many that stood out, including Victory, Back, Babyish, and When to Leave. 

The pacing of the book is wonderful, but you might not want to take it all in at once because the subject matter is rather intense. I appreciated the growth in Sophia’s character, and the interactions between her and Marla are integral in that growth. As they remember and forget things together, there is both sweetness and melancholy. 

While the somewhat unresolved ending may frustrate some readers, I found it to be beautiful. I’d love to know what happened to some of the characters, including Sophia’s father, but leaving your readers in charge of ending the story can also be a gift.
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Being Toffee, a novel in verse, tells the story of Allison, a teenage runaway who ends up squatting in the home of a woman with dementia and convincing her that she is someone the woman knows. The way that the book is written in verse seems to make it easier to read about Allison's abusive father and the many difficulties and scary situations that Allison faces after running away. It is definitely a serious book but it also has many moments of joy. I felt that the ending left something to be desired, but it's a minor quibble with an overall wonderful book.
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I picked this up just to read a little before bed last night (as I'm a sucker for YA novels in verse) and ended up devouring it in one sitting. I've been sitting on this review all day because it seems like everything I could say has already been said on here already - I cared about these characters, I feared for them, it made me cry repeatedly, etc. 

Look, it was just GOOD, alright? It'll give you the sad feels sometimes, but (most of the) characters grow and change and end up in a better place than where they started. And these days a book where things turn out full of love and hope in the end is something I need more than ever. Highly, highly recommended. 

I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Netgalley.
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When Allison flees her abusive home, she quickly finds herself in a tough situation with no money, no food, and no shelter. So, she sneaks into an apparently abandoned home where Marla, the house's elderly owner, mistakes her for "Toffee." Confused, but desperate to at least find a way to make it through the night, Allison's willing to play along. But how long can she keep this up?

Much as it sounds, BEING TOFFEE is a completely character-centric novel that focuses on Allison and her growing relationship with Marla. Minimal description is given about anything else, because the interaction between Allison and others is what is at the core of this novel. In many ways, it feels like a book about nothing, because we're not physically moving in a particular direction and it's not completely clear what the ultimate goal is. But that's not a bad thing. The story meanders through Allison's experiences, past and present, but since the novel is written in verse, we don't dwell there. Little by little, we build out the full picture of where we are and what's happened, which leaves us with the question of "What's next?" From the beginning, we can see the situation doesn't seem sustainable, but there doesn't seem to be another option and that, coupled with the beautiful writing, is what kept me turning pages in this engrossing and thought-provoking story.

Since I read an egalley, I didn't get to benefit from the layout of the text. It seems like it's a novel that plays with the appearance of the text itself to help bolster the tone of the novel and feelings of its protagonist. I'm curious how that text play might have altered my experience with the book. Regardless, I think the enjoyment of this book rests heavily on what readers bring to it, and thus by extension, what they expect from it, particularly where the ending's concerned. 

BEING TOFFEE is a heavy read, but it's beautifully written and there are many pithy statements that transcend Allison's specific situation into the realm of universally relatable. I would recommend this book to those who like to savor moments in writing, who enjoy deep dives into a character's head, and who don't mind a little heartbreak. In some ways, it reminded me of Jason Reynolds's LONG WAY DOWN. Both novels use verse to tackle difficult subjects in a succinct and nonlinear manner. Thus, BEING TOFFEE may also appeal to reluctant readers who don't mind contemplation over action or fans of LONG WAY DOWN's narrative structure.
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A beautiful and heartbreaking work told entirely in verse I could not put down. Teenager Allison flees an abusive relationship and finds a new kind of home with an elderly woman with dementia. This book does not turn away from hard subjects and exposes the many shapes abuse can take and how a person copes.
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This book was really surprising to me! I believe it’s written in verse (though it was a little hard to tell with the NetGalley formatting). It’s equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful. Allison is extremely damaged due to her abusive father and I was rooting for her so hard as she ran away and tried to figure out a way to survive on her own. Marla was also a really sympathetic character and my heart aches for the confusion and loneliness she must have been feeling. This is a book full of strong women who make their own choices. And I would definitely recommend.
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This wasn't my favorite of Crossan's books, but it has definite appeal for teens with the verse prose and the topic of parental abuse. Heartbreakingly sad, but without pandering. I'll definitely buy this for my library.
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Sixteen-year-old Allison’s mom died when she was born, leaving her with a father who mentally and physically abused her. For years she tried to stay out of his way but when he got angry, there wasn’t anything she or his girlfriend Kelly-Anne could do to avoid his cruelty. After Kelly-Anne left them, things got so bad that Allison ran away.

Now homeless, Allison eventually wandered into a home where an elderly woman lived alone. Marla’s dementia caused her to mistake Allison for a long-lost friend named Toffee so, for lack of anywhere to go, Allison moved in with her. They soon struck up a friendship but as Marla’s dementia got worse, Allison’s peace of mind improved. As Marla helped her learn to find her voice, she helped Marla gain the strength she needed to face changes coming in her own life.

Allison’s moving story of love lost and found is told in poetic verse. Readers will find themselves rooting for both Allison and Marla. I’m glad Bloomsbury YA decided to release this book in the United States. It’s an important story of finding hope and joy in unusual ways.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Allison has never known her real mom but she feels like her mom did love her since she carried her for 9 months. Allison's father on the other hand physically and mentally abuses her and one day she runs away and meets Marla.  Marla has dementia and finds Allison hiding in her shed and mistakes her for somebody named Toffee. As this story progresses Allison realizes that Marla needs her as much as she needs Marla.  Written in verse this story will suck you in quickly and make you sad and happy all at the same time.
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I didn't connect with this book at all. There wasn't really a plot to this book and the characters felt a bit one dimensional. I felt a bit bored reading this book. I also had a hard time which part of dialogue was said by which character most of the time and I didn't really understand the ending. It just seemed like a weird conclusion to the story. I don't get how the people around this woman didn't freak out at all when our main character showed up all of the sudden. So yeah, this was dissapointing.
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Crossan, an award-winning Irish author, tells this moving story entirely in free verse.  The book is marketed for young adults, but I don’t feel it should be separated from the adult book section.

Allison runs away from an abusive father, initially seeking out refuge with her father’s ex-fiancee Kelly-Anne, who had always been good to Allison, and who said she was leaving for Cornwall.  When Allison gets to Cornwall, however, it turns out Kelly-Anne has left, and Allison is stranded with no money and no place to go.  She finds shelter in the house of an old woman, Marla, who has dementia and thinks Allison is her childhood friend Toffee.

Allison ends up helping care for Marla, who has periods of mental clarity, and many more of confusion.  But they grow close, with Allison keeping her presence a secret from others who visit Marla, until an accident forces Allison to go for help. 

There are so many issues besides abuse that Crossan explores through her spare verse including  the tendency of some people to fall through the cracks in society, mistreatment and neglect of the elderly, the disease of loneliness, and the restorative power of love and care.

Evaluation:  It is evident why this author has won so many awards for her writing.  Most impressively, she has made a potentially very depressing story into one of hope and healing.
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Sarah Crossan has done it yet again. Her writing style is completely unique while the entire book is written in verse. This works phenomenally with the story as it really brings to life the emotions her characters are feeling. The writing is lyrical. The story follows 15 year old Allison who runs away from home and ends up living with an elderly woman with dementia who mistakes her for an old friend. I dare you not to cry while reading Crossan's latest novel. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy realistic fiction written in verse.
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I very much enjoyed this book. I really liked the parts where Marla would forget that "Toffee" was in the house and she would try to kick her out of the house because it was really funny. It took a bit of time to get the characters down. The author made a stylistic choice to have all spoken words in italics and not in quotes, once I understood that it made the book easier to read and follow. 

I did like that this book ended with a formation of a non-traditional family unit, and it shows that we can all find a family, even if it is not what we are expecting.
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