Saturday, March 9, 2013

Converse over Cranium

Families are as different as people themselves. The definition of family is so broad that it doesn't just cover a mom, a dad, and children. Sarah Tregay gets to the heart of this growing cultural difference in Love and Leftovers with a variety of different kinds of family, but they all have one thing in common: love. 

Marcie's mother drags her to New Hampshire after finding out Marcie's dad has been lying and cheating on her- with another man. Usually they just vacation at their family's old summer house, but fall has arrived, school has begun, and they should have left by now. Back in Idaho, Marcie left her father, her best friends (the Leftovers), and her perfect boyfriend, Linus. She didn't even pack for the move, and her aunt has to donate some clothes to the cold and changing cause (including underwear the size of Idaho). 

At first Marcie just wants to go back to Idaho, but she begins to settle in to her new school. In fact, she even starts hanging out with a boy named J.D. and starts to forget about the life she has back home. When her own father's lies and life choices start to invade her own thoughts, she finds herself uncertain about what to believe. Could Linus be gay like her father is? Is it easier to go after a boy who is so clearly not gay but might be a player?

There are so many layers to this book, it is hard to unravel them all. First you have the catalyst for the whole story, Marcie's dad. This whole relationship is handled so well, I was happy to see it in this book. Yes, the realization that he was no longer in love with Marcie's mother was difficult, but he still cared about her. And Marcie struggled with the separation and divorce, but eventually she accepted it and was actually quite understanding about her father's new relationship. She even becomes close with Danny, her father's boyfriend, and realizes how much happier her father is now. I loved the way this relationship unfolded, and it gave this added depth and love to the story that doesn't often come out of one parent cheating on the other.

Next were the supporting characters. In Idaho, Marcie's friends call themselves the Leftovers, the unclassifiable kids who don't belong to any group. They are an eclectic bunch, but they are truly fabulous- the kids you wish you were brave enough to be at that age! But they all have their skeletons too. Emily got pregnant and gave her son up for adoption. Linus' father lost his job and Linus spends most of his time babysitting his brother's daughter. All of these backstories make this group of kids enough for an entire book for each of them! But the backstories aren't hokey or cheesy, they just are what they are, and they all care about one another. I loved these kids!

This was a really great book written in verse with short but powerful sentences that suck you in and throw you into the spin cycle. I would love this book, which deals with such mature topics, to be used for an older, mature, struggling reader because the chapters are super short, the language is melodious but simple, and the verse is acceptable. They would be able to read it successfully but not feel like they were reading a story that was beneath them in terms of maturity. I really liked this story and applaud Tregay for fitting in so much material with so few words! Brilliant!

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