“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.” Toffee.
When Allison flees from home and seeks refuge in a shed (in what she thinks is an abandoned home) her life takes an unexpected turn. The home is where Marla lives – an elderly woman, lonely, confused and neglected by her family.
Written as a verse novel, ‘Toffee’ (by Sarah Crossan) is physically easy to read, but somewhat hard to deal with – it raises issues about family violence and elder abuse/neglect. However, each of these is slowly and softly revealed, as we learn about Allison’s family situation and her feelings about those she left behind. There are also parallel revelations about Marla’s family.
Gradually Allison becomes ‘Toffee’, gaining a feeling of safety. She is slowly accepted in Marla’s home, as Marla thinks she is her friend from the past. For Allison, a new identity and friendship are welcome; especially given the comforts of Marla’s home, where her father’s ways can be forgotten.
Along the way, Crossan shows the complications of life for both Allison and Marla…
Allison longs to have a normal family life, and can’t understand what tips her father’s moods. Is she to blame? Should she be a better daughter?
Marla also longs for a happy family life, and the life she remembers from long ago. At times, she is forgetful and confused, which Allison/Toffee learns to manage.
What does it mean to be ‘family’? What are real friends meant to be like? Who can you trust? These are some of the ideas explored in ‘Toffee’, as Sarah Crossan* shows that not all family situations are reliably the same.
In this video, Sarah outlines why she likes to write verse novels like Toffee – made up of a “series of snapshots” for the reader, rather than the “film” version of a prose book.
*Other books by Sarah Crossan include ‘Apple & Rain’ and ‘The Weight of Water’
** Sarah Crossan is currently the Irish Children’s Laureate for 2018-2020.
What does family mean to you?
Do money and wealth lead to happiness? (consider Lucy’s situation)
What do you really value in life?