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Book Review: Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay

When Marcie’s mother runs into her husband and his boyfriend at the grocery store, she drags Marcie away for the summer.  No longer at home in Idaho with her friends (a group of misfits called the Leftovers) and her boyfriend Linus, Marcie tries to adjust to life in New Hampshire.  When Marcie’s mother doesn’t talk about returning in time for school, Marcie starts to think the move is permanent.  Everything back home was left hanging, and when Marcie starts to feel things for cutie JD, things get even more complicated.  All she wants is to really be in love–but how do you know when it’s real?

In general, verse novels don’t work for me.  I often feel as though the poetry is really just prose that’s been split up into lines, and often I feel as though the story is underdeveloped as a result.  When I started Sarah Tregay’s debut novel, I was worried about my mental block when it comes to verse.  However, Tregay is one of those rare authors who gets it totally right.  Love and Leftovers uses its verse in a way that works well for the story, creating a surprisingly compelling novel.

Tregay’s sparse language elevates what is otherwise a very conventional love story.  Her ability to craft a voice for Marcie as well as bringing to life several other personalities helps make the story authentic and very real.  The brevity of the story (despite being over 400 pages, each page has very little text) will help entice reluctant readers, and readers who are in it for the poetic gains will love the way Tregay plays with structure and format.

Marcie’s guilt, loneliness, and desire drive much of the novel’s action, but Tregay’s ability to develop some of the novel’s other characters (notably JD and Linus) help keep the novel from careening into too much melodrama.  Marcie’s father’s gay relationship and the fact that it’s so well-accepted adds a level of interest to the story and helps flesh out Marcie’s background.  Not every decision Marcie makes is sensible, and she hurts people on her path to self-discovery, but every action she makes is completely believable.  This is a realistic novel, and that will be attractive to teens.

Although it took me nearly half the book to really connect to what was happening, once I did, I couldn’t let go.  Tregay’s clever poetry and her vivid characters will resonate with many readers.  Highly recommended.

Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay.  Katherine Tegen Books: 2011.  Library copy.

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