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Monday, February 20, 2012

love & leftovers, written by sarah tregay. Harper, 2011. $19.99 ages 13 and up

"I thought it was my fault
because you didn't touch me.
I thought it was Dad's fault
because he wrecked our family.
I thought it was Mom's fault
because she slept all day.
I thought it was Katie's fault
because she chose the Leftovers
over me."

You don't need a lot of words to tell a great story; but, you need wonderful words and form to tell it well. Sarah Tregay knows that. She gets it right the first time!

In her debut novel, she constructs a story in verse that is honest, and filled with all of the uncertainties of being sixteen, dealing with a family break-up, leaving your friends behind, and first love. Marcie and her mother are in Durham, New Hampshire and school is about to school, new year...everything new. They have come to New Hampshire to get away from Boise, Idaho. In Boise, Marcie's Dad is living with his boyfriend, Katie and Linus (her best friend and boyfriend) and the rest of the  Leftovers are starting their own school year and life is going on without her.

Marcie is caring for her depressed mother while living in a family summer house on the Atlantic coast, and not knowing who to blame:

"But I can't hate my dad
just because he's gay.
I love him.

Nor can I leave Mom
when she's so down.
She needs me.

And this
pile of dominoes
is not my fault."

My heart aches for her. As she begins school, she decides she won't worry about new friends. J.D. changes that. He is persistent in his pursuit, he's cute, he's an athlete well-liked by his classmates. When he kisses Marcie, she is confused. She already has a boyfriend, doesn't she? How can she feel like this when it isn't Linus who's kissing her? And she has a wish:

"My Wish

is to fall
cranium over Converse
in dizzy daydream-worthy

I don't remember a lot about being sixteen. I suspect I might have felt exactly that same thing.
J. D. brings her doughnuts, plans a special birthday party and wants to be with her. Linus deserves to know, but she cannot face telling him and she wants to ask her dad about it all:

"Then I'd ask him how he managed
the ping-ponging feelings
that accompany liking
two people at one time.

Because kissing J.D.
felt amazing one minute
and terrible the next."

When her dad visits at Christmas, the decision is made for Marcie to return to Boise with him. Her mother needs time to heal and find new meaning in life, her dad loves her and wants her with him.  Marcie is on the move again. Returning to Boise and seeing Linus boosts her feelings of guilt and she tells him about J.D. The fallout is predictable. Life goes on without Linus, without Katie, and without the Leftovers. Everything has changed, and Marcie is more confused than ever.

Fully-developed characters, first person narrative, honest emotions, relationships, courage and the fragile nature of first love...they are all here and they work at creating a compelling story. Marcie's poetry journal gives us insight into the depth of the emotions she is feeling, and hope for her future.

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