The class book review: Toffee

This memorable novel by Sarah Crossan shows that the relationships that matter the most don't need to be based on blood

Ros Harding

The class book review: Toffee, by Sarah Crossan


Author: Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Details: £12.99, 416 pages
ISBN: 978-1408868126

Teacher review

Full disclosure: I am possibly Sarah Crossan’s biggest fan, and getting my hands on an early copy of this book was the highlight of my year so far. Obviously, the risk with this level of obsession is that one day you are going to be let down, but this has definitely not happened with Toffee.  

This is, as you would expect from Crossan, a beautifully written book. She is a master of the verse novel, and many of the pupils in our school have been completely converted to the style because of her books.  

Toffee is told from the perspective of Allison, who has run away from an abusive father (the extent of this abuse is revealed piece by piece throughout the book), and finds herself mistaken for an old friend, Toffee, by Marla, a woman suffering from dementia. This is the start of an unlikely friendship, which develops from Allison’s taking advantage of Marla’s vulnerability, through to her becoming protective, especially with regard to Marla’s son, who is at best neglectful of his mother and, at worst, abusive. 

There are moments of pure joy in the book, especially with regard to Allison and Marla’s friendship (their dancing scenes are wonderful), and there are many bleaker moments. Ultimately, this is a story of hope, resilience and the power of the human spirit. 

Crossan shows that the relationships that matter the most to us don’t need to be based on blood, and that love and friendship can develop anywhere. The most powerful aspect of the book comes through Allison learning that she is worth love and that she did not deserve the treatment from her father.

This is an incredible book, and one that I will be pushing into the hands of many different pupils.

Ros Harding is head librarian at The King’s School, Chester

Pupil reviews

‘Quite a hard-hitting book’

Overall, I really enjoyed this book because it shows the ups and down associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. It also addressed the attitudes towards domestic and child abuse and false friends. 

Although it was quite a hard-hitting book, because of all the topics addressed, the ending gave the reader hope for the characters, Allison and Marla. However, it did also show the sad reality that elderly people with mental health issues are taken away from their homes because it is no longer safe for them to be in their own homes. 

I can relate to this book and the difficulties in communicating with people with dementia. The way Crossan subtly made the character of Lucy use Allison for homework made me stop and think about it and how well-hidden it was. I really enjoyed this book and would probably recommend it to people in about Year 7 and above.

Jessica Sedman, Year 9

‘Certain to leave an imprint’

Toffee is a heart-warming novel, bringing to light real-life concepts that connect with the reader. A story about unlikely friendships, love, hope and kindness from the darkest of places, which is certain to leave an imprint. 

I loved the moving storyline, the strong relationships between the characters, and the way the plot gradually linked in with the current events of the story and returned to poignant recurring themes, overall creating a meaningful read. The book has a slower pace than other Sarah Crossan novels, but nevertheless touches the reader with its emotive tale. 

Nithikka Senthil Kumar, Year 9

‘A great story of friendship and love’

Toffee was an amazing read. It gripped me from the start and continued to until the very end. I think that this story is very powerful and relatable to modern day. 

It really highlights huge issues amongst communities and emphasises the horrors of abuse, while also being a great story of friendship and love. Truly a book that I couldn’t put down, and I recommend this to everyone, as Sarah Crossan is a great author.

Lily Hodge, Year 8

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Ros Harding

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