________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 19 . . . . May 15, 2009

cover Leftovers.

Heather Waldorf.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2009.
198 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55143-937-2.

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


Without thinking - barely breathing - I slammed my ten-pound textbook closed and pitched it at Tanner's face, knocking his camera to the floor, where it smashed to smithereens on the ceramic tiles. I bolted out of my chair and grabbed Tanner's car keys off the counter. Ignoring Tanner's shocked expression and my mother's angry shouts, I fled out the side door.

"I just had to get out of there," was how I'd explained it to my mother at the police station, after a trip to the hospital. Forget that I was still only fifteen, obviously had no license, and my only driving experience was behind the wheel of a golf cart last fall in my cousin's apple orchard. Not too surprising that I'd totalled the car.

"You'll have to get over this ridiculous picture-taking phobia one day, Sarah," she said. "I'd understand if you were deformed or overweight but you're an attractive young woman - when you aren't scowling. You cut school on picture days. You won't sit for family portraits. You destroyed Tanner's new camera." She buried her head in her hands and mumbled through her fingers. "This is crazy. Crazy."

Sarah Greene won't allow anyone to take her picture. She has her reasons - her now-deceased father took a lot of pictures of her - pornographic pictures. Now all Sarah wants is to find those pictures and destroy them.

     When her mother's new boyfriend tries to take a picture of her doing homework, Sarah breaks his camera and steals his car, landing herself in juvenile court. She is sentenced to community service for the summer at Camp Dog Gone Fun, a summer camp for dogs from shelters. At the camp, Sarah meets Judy, a dog, and Sullivan, a cancer survivor, and starts on the road to recovery from the abuse she suffered. When her mother finds out about the abuse, the entire family has to come to terms with what has happened in the past.

     Heather Waldorf has written a moving book about child abuse and its long-term effects on the victims and their families. Over a year after her father's death, Sarah has still not begun to recover from the years of abuse, turning her reaction into a phobia about having her picture taken by anyone.

     Leftovers is written in the first person, which can be risky as the reader needs to be able to identify with the main character more than if the story is written in the third person. Waldorf is able to make the first person narration work extremely well, pulling the reader farther into the story, as well as making Sarah's story more personal. First person narration can cut the reader off from the thoughts of the other characters, but Waldorf is able to express these through the dialogue and Sarah's observations and does so without making the story seem forced.

     Waldorf has a great knack of character description and is easily able to bring her quirky characters to life in just a few, often humorous, sentences. One character is described as "a fiery-haired social worker with so much energy she should come with a warning label." No other description is really needed as the reader can easily visualize this character from the one sentence.

     Waldorf plays very well with tension in Leftovers. There is always a small element of tension that grows and fades depending on the characters and the events, especially when trust is involved. There is enough humour in the book to mitigate the tension when necessary, but Waldorf allows the tension to build nicely to the climax of the book.

     Leftovers is an excellent book showing the long-term impacts abuse in any form has on children and their families. The book draws readers in, taking them on a journey that is both sad and inspirational and always thought-provoking.


Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a graduate of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, Vancouver, BC.

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