Allison doesn’t want to be found in Marla’s shed. She has left home, just as Kelly- Anne did before. Nobody ever stays with Allison’s Dad, and therefore Allison. Yet somehow, Allison hoped that Kelly- Anne, who offered her fun and hope and warmth, might make it better… Without Kelly- Anne, there was no hope, only more of Dad’s rules and anger.

Now, Allison has become ‘Toffee‘, someone Marla remembers from a time before. Marla doesn’t remember very much. She seeks Mary, but Allison has no idea who Mary might be. When Marla’s son or the health visitor come to the house, Allison hides. She goes to the beach and tries to forge. All the time she remembers Dad and school, and wonders about her mother, and then about Kelly- Anne, and what might happen next. What is the future for Allison?

‘Toffee’ is a heart-breaking story. We are drawn into Allison’s circumstances, needing her to be safe and secure and loved. We feel her fear, solitude and hurt. Where is Kelly-Anne? Will anyone discover her at Marla’s? Where is a safe place for Allison to call home? How long can she stay with Marla?

‘Toffee’ is recommended for older readers. It is the winner of the Books are My Bag Young Adult Fiction Award.



Sarah Crossan


‘Toffee’ is what Marla calls Allison. Allison thinks, ‘I have known worse compromises than forfeiting a name.’ Sometimes Marla asks about Mary and Allison distracts or pacifies her, while seeking clues about Mary in Marla’s house. When callers come, Allison hides. She is used to hiding. She was hiding in Marla’s shed. However, Marla is not who she used to be either for she has dementia. Somehow these two lost souls, each fearful of their present and future, are drawn together. Gradually, we piece together Allison’s story, while she picks the fragments of Marla’s life. Each is aware they’re living on borrowed time together.
Allison’s Dad ‘didn’t like her having friends’. Neither did he like fun or noise or mess. HIs agitation grew to such extremes that he paralysed Allison’s life, and thereafter Kelly-Anne’s. Kelly-Anne left because she could leave, and no woman ever stays, but Allison was stuck. Then came the moment when she could stay no longer, the moment that has left her hiding her face…
Like Beverly, Right Here, Allison is on her own and in hiding, seeking refuge from strangers. However, Allison is also in shock. She cannot plan her next move while she takes stock of what’s happened to her, and where she might turn next.
Carnegie Medal winning writer, Sarah Crossan, leads us gently through Allison’s contemplation. Her verse prose is empathetic, realistic with such nuanced descriptions of each setting, character and encounter. We need ‘Toffee’ and Marla to enjoy the sort of loving safety each deserves and needs. Books are My Bag Young Adult Book Award


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