Toffee by Sarah Crossan
Published by Bloomsbury
RRP: $24.99

After realising she will never make her abusive father happy, Allison runs away with a small bag and few possessions. She has nowhere to go and hides in a garden shed. The owner of the shed is Marla, an elderly woman suffering dementia. Marla is confused and mistakes Allison for Toffee, then Mary, then numerous other people. At times she is lucid and offers support and friendship Allison has rarely experienced from adults. Allison stays longer than expected, earning money from a new friend, Lucy, when she does Lucy’s homework and assessments. Allison has one person in the world she can contact, and possibly ask for help, Kelly-Anne, her father’s ex-fiancé. Having left some time before Allison, Allison is unable to call Kelly-Anne as her phone and meagre belongings were stolen from the beach. With money earned from Lucy, and mobile phone given as part payment, Allison is able to access emails and other methods of communication. But can she leave Marla, who herself is the victim of domestic violence from her adult son who occasionally visits?

This book, like all Crossan books I have read, is riveting. I was unable to put it down. Every word is used to effect, not a word is superfluous to the narrative. There is so much inference and alluding to the horrific abuse Allison suffered and I was left wondering many times after reading verses of just a few lines. My favourites, Bruised Fruit (page 22) and Unkissed (page 124) are still with me and will be for some time, remarkable.

I read this at the time I was showing my Year 8 students verse novels. It was a timely read. I love verse novels, and I love Sarah Crossan verse novels. This will be added to my list of favourites!