Myself and my very good best pal Charlotte from Wonderfully Bookish found ourselves co-reading Toffee by Sarah Crossan recently. We love a blog hop so decided to review it for each other! That means you can head over to her blog to read my review of Toffee! We really want to make more of an effort with co-blogging, because it’s a lot of fun to take over someone else’s page for a little while, let us know if you like it or have any ideas. Make sure to keep reading for Charlotte’s review!
Hi! I’m Charlotte, and I write about books, theatre, films and occasionally other things at Wonderfully Bookish. Sophie and Sarah are two of my best pals ever, so I love when we write posts for each other’s blogs! Today I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on Toffee by Sarah Crossan. You can read Sarah’s review of the same book over on my blog. (Yay for blog swaps!)
As a long-time fan of Sarah Crossan’s books, I couldn’t wait to get Toffee, her latest novel. It took me a while to actually get it because I usually wait for the paperback, but Bloomsbury were selling the hardback at YALC for £5 so I just couldn’t say no to that. So I came home from YALC and read it straight away.
With favourite authors, I can often be a little apprehensive about reading their new books. What if I don’t like it and I have to say it’s the only book by that author that I didn’t love?! This was especially the case with this because, as much as I don’t like to compare an author’s work to their previous books, one of my all-time favourites is Sarah Crossan’s book, One. I worried that I love One so much that anything else she writes wouldn’t compare. Luckily, Toffee definitely didn’t leave me disappointed!
The story follows Allison, a teenager who has run away from her abusive father at home. She hides out in the shed behind a house that she soon learns belongs to Marla, an old lady with dementia who mistakes Allison for her childhood friend, Toffee. With no one else for company and nowhere to live, Allison goes along with this – and her and Marla soon develop an unlikely friendship.
Sarah Crossan’s novels usually explore hard topics, and Toffee is no different. It’s a devastating but pointant story about trauma, parental abuse, grief, and mental health – but it’s also a story about belonging, love, discovering who you really are, and finding family and friendship in the most unlikely places.
I love the way Toffee explores all of the themes – they’re harsh enough for you to understand the reality of Allison’s situation and how terrible parental abuse can be, and they’re not watered down for a YA audience – but they’re also not written in a way that makes it a miserable reading experience. Throughout the whole book you have a constant feeling of hope for Allison, Marla, and the other secondary characters, too.
The story does rush a little bit towards the end, with some things being neatly wrapped up in a few pages, and I would like to have seen some more development at the end because so much happens. The book is mostly character-focused without a huge amount of action, so when things do ramp up at the end, it feels like a bit of a whirlwind. I didn’t mind this, though – it just made me want to read it even faster and race to find out if everything would be okay!
In case you haven’t read one of Sarah’s novels before, she writes in an unusual free verse style. Her stories are entirely made up of individual free verse poems. This is a style that I’ve grown to love over the past couple of years, and I’m building up quite a collection of free verse novels. I understand it’s not for everybody though, but please don’t let it put you off reading this book or any others like it. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s such a fast read because you fly through the pages, and it’s a whole different experience than reading a novel written in traditional prose.
I’m so glad I bought Toffee at YALC, because it’s fuelled my love for verse fiction again. I can’t wait to see what Sarah Crossan comes up with next, because so far, every single one of her novels has found its way somewhere on my list of favourites. She truly is the queen of free verse fiction!