Review of “Being Toffee” by Sarah Crossan

Crossan, an award-winning Irish author who was appointed Irish Children’s laureate in 2018, 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 the London area 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 subtly 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.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Bloomsbury YA, 2020

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