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Hilary T. Smith
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Bryan Peterson

Love & Leftovers

Love & Leftovers - 3.5 starsIt’s fair to say that I’m fickle when it comes to verse novels - I can’t decide whether I like them or not. But I do like this book. Love and Leftovers is an earnest, sweet story of a teenage girl’s journey through trials of the heart, family and friends. There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking in the plot: Marcie’s parents have split up, her father has a new boyfriend, and her depressed mother has fled across the country, dragging Marcie with her. Alone in a new state, Marcie is attempting to balance a long distance relationship with her emo-rocker boyfriend, and the burgeoning interest of local jock J.D. In a new place, Marcie can become a new person, but is that who she really wants to be?This is a case where the verse is what makes the story compelling and vital. Tregay’s writing breathes life into the premise, resuscitating a somewhat vanilla concept into something more complex and interesting. Tregay uses different styles of verse here effectively – smoothly transitioning between free form and more traditional poetic structures to suit each particular scene. As I read Love and Leftovers, I felt I was reading poetry, not simply sentences broken into stilted shards. What also works in the book’s favour is that I was convinced this was the voice of a teenage girl. The novel takes the form of poems Marcie writes in a notebook, interspersed with IMs with her best friend and song lyrics (Shh. Yes, I know. Song lyrics. But trust me, it’s okay – they work). It reminded me so much of the way I expressed myself as a teenager (although my poetry was decidedly rubbish), that it felt unmistakably realistic. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Marcie’s group of friends, dubbed the Leftovers, and the way they resisted being categorised under one stereotypical high school label. I love books that acknowledge that high school doesn’t always fall neatly into popular/not popular boxes, and friendships that are diverse. As a former Leftover myself, I really appreciated the way Tregay created a cast of characters that were interesting and seemingly contradictory in themselves – because this feels truer to me than stock standard high school archetypes. At it’s heart, Love and Leftovers is a story about making mistakes, and moving on. It handles topics both sensitively and frankly, upfront about self-doubt, sex and depression. Or in Marcie’s words:[…]poems about love, lust, and loneliness,Docks, fires, and gravel lanes,Big panties and condoms, Blue dresses and rocking canoes,Talent shows and selfish bitches,Quiet crushes and candlelit cupcakes…” I may never make up my mind about verse novels in general, but I’m definitely a fan of Sarah Tregay's charming debut.