{Review} Love + Leftovers by Sarah Tregay

I ordered Love & Leftovers shortly after finishing Audition. I’d really enjoyed that novel in verse and I’d remembered that April had really enjoyed this one as well. The verse in Love and Leftovers is actually far more enjoyable than in Audition, as it plays with form to build tension throughout the novel. If you’re nerdily interested in that sort of thing, L&L is worth reading for that aspect alone.

What I was really surprised by was how compelling and “edgy” (ugh, I hate that word) this one is. The marketing for L&L made me assume it was a “cute/sweet” read (I’ve got no problem with that at all), but it actually dealt with a lot of issues in a realistic manner, particularly teens and intimacy in many of its forms. Marcie is dragged on a permanent vacation from her hometown of Boise to New Hampshire by her mother.

Once summer is over, their vacation doesn’t end, and her mother enrolls Marcie in school in New England, where she’s incredibly lonely. Despite that she has a boyfriend, Marcie begins a sort of relationship with J.D. The fluid nature of young adult relationships was handled extremely well, and while I am often uncomfortable with themes of cheating (and frankly, I have a hard time categorizing this as cheating) in novels for any age, the very real consequences (positive and negative) of this plot-line were extremely well-done.

When Marcie returns to Idaho, she’s reunited with her group of friends, The Leftovers, and boy did I love the scenes involving all of them. It reminded both of when I was that age and my friend pool was very similar and was relatable for me now as a supposed grown-up who still has a motley mix of friends. The results of what happened while Marcie was marooned in New Hampshire come to a head in interesting and believable ways and there are some moments in which I was absolutely cringing in a way I do whenever I watch Freaks & Geeks (“It’s too real! Make it stop!”).

I have a few thoughts that are of a spoilery nature, so read the next three paragraphs at your own risk:

{spoiler}

There’s a theme throughout this novel of the results of being the person from which intimacy (emotional or physical) is witheld. I don’t think I’ve seen this in a YA book, at least in such an overt manner, and boy is it something that’s overdue. Marcie, her father and her sometimes boyfriend Linus all at some point suffer from the results of being emotionally or physically, for lack of a better word, abandoned—and, wow, they all dealt with it in realistically intense ways.

I normally have an issue with YA novels in particular where teen boy characters are judgy regarding female characters’ sexuality. In L&L, Linus freaks out because he assumes that Marcie had sex with J.D. back in New Hampshire. Later on, he discovers that he assumed wrongly. However, this is not the catalyst for mending the pair’s relationship; there’s none of that, “Oh, since you’re still this perfect virginal girl, we can get back together.” nonsense. Instead, the tables are turned, and the Leftover he starts dating does the same to him, remaining emotionally and physically distant. That is what causes him to realize that what he did to Marcie prior to her leaving for New Hampshire was just as bad as what she did to him by starting a sort of relationship with J.D.

Finally, while we have a “happy for now” resolution for this book, I didn’t get the feeling that there was an overblown “happily ever after” assumed in L&L. As someone who is married to a wonderful guy I met when I was 17, I get pretty offended when I read reviews saying that teen love isn’t real love, but at the same time, I always get the icks when a contemporary YA implies that the young couple will be happy forever. Hurray to Sarah Tregay for walking that line beautifully, ala Sarah Dessen.

{end spoiler}

Notes

  • I had a hard time with J.D. as a character, because I kept thinking he was J.D. McCoy, and he was totally not a J.D. McCoy. If anything, he was kind of a male Lyla. 
  • Hallelujah to the rare YA novel that embraces teen girl sexuality in a positive way. Seriously. I’m sure for this reason, some folks will have a problem with L&L. 
  • I wish I could ask the book designer if the use of Lobster font for the poem titles was a shout out to New England.  
  • If someone had told me you could use the word “boner” in a poem, I probably would’ve enjoyed poetry more as a teenager.

Memorable Moments Etc

This poem stuck out to me as articulating something that a love of women of all ages wrestle with

If my mom says 
women 
are not property 

how come I want 
to belong 
to someone?

My favorite line (aside from the boner poem, natch):

That’s how we spent the day 

drizzling sarcasm over the truth 
dropping bad jokes like f-bombs

I highly recommend this one for folks who love realistic, contemporary YA and for people who’re interested in checking out novels in free verse. This one is super-approachable and beautifully executed. I usually buy books in digital form, but I did buy the hardback of this one and it’s full of post-it notes with favorite lines marked out. Sarah Tregay will definitely go onto my auto-buy list.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

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