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Written by Sarah Crossan

Key Stage 4 Family / Home Stories General Fiction Gritty Reads Poetry

LoveReading View on Toffee

A fractured family, dementia and finding a place that feels like home

Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020

Another insightful and compassionate free verse novel from the queen of this increasingly admired form, this time exploring the transformative relationship between an abused runaway teenager and an elderly lady with dementia.

Allison has grown up “stepping on eggshells” to circumvent her father’s violence. While she often wonders whether his behaviour was “all my fault”, one of his outbursts compels her to run away. With nowhere to go, she finds sanctuary in the house of an elderly woman called Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is Toffee, her best friend from childhood. After spending some time in Marla’s company, Allison decides to “stop correcting her… I like the idea of being sweet and hard, a girl with a name for people to chew on.” Moreover, in meeting Marla, Allison has found an unlikely kindred spirit: “I am not who I say I am. Marla isn’t who she thinks she is… Here, in this house, I am so much happier than I have ever been”.

Returning the favour, Allison enriches Marla’s life – she listens, she indulges Marla’s desire to dance - while Marla’s carer and son show no real regard for her happiness, as if she’s beyond life, which makes Allison’s attentiveness all the more heart warming. Both vulnerable, they find strength through each other. With incredibly moving insight, Marla says of Allison’s dad, “none of it was about you. It was about him. It’s always about him. Surely you know that.”

The writing is compellingly fluid, flowing freely between Allison’s precarious present and the tragic, abusive circumstances that sent her careering down this path. While fleeting, the impact of their time together is monumental, and I felt privileged to have spent time in their company.

Joanne Owen

Toffee Synopsis

When Allison runs away from home she doesn't expect to be taken in by Marla, an elderly woman with dementia, who mistakes her for an old friend 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.

But as her bond with Marla grows, Allison begins to ask herself -where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really?

Toffee Press Reviews

Impossible not to read it in a single gulp - The Times

Utterly sublime - Cecelia Ahern

Compelling and beautifully wrought - The Sunday Times

A book that changes its reader for the better - Guardian

Undoubtedly one of the best books of the year - Irish Times

One of our most original writers - John Boyne

Very special - Daily Mail

Book Information

ISBN: 9781408868133
Publication date: 6th February 2020
Author: Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 416 pages
Year Groups: Key Stage 4
Topics: Family / Home Stories, General Fiction, Gritty Reads, Poetry

About Sarah Crossan

Sarah Crossan has lived in Dublin, London and New York, and now lives in Hertfordshire. She graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Literature before training as an English and drama teacher at the University of Cambridge.  The Weight of Water and Apple and Rain were both shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. In 2016, Sarah won the CILIP Carnegie Medal as well as the YA Book Prize, the CBI Book of the Year award and the CLiPPA Poetry Award for her novel, One.   Sarah is the go-to writer of the free verse novel in the UK and ...

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