leftovers-coverBy the time you hit fifteen, there are certain survival lessons you’d better have learned.

That’s the world-weary voice of Blair Brost. She’s one of the two teenage narrators of Laura Wiess’s compelling YA novel, Leftovers. Blair’s co-narrator is Ardith. Although they are fifteen when they begin to tell their story, Ardith says they must “go back to eighth grade, which is when it all began.”

Blair is an only child. Her parents are lawyers; her mother is particularly ambitious and when she makes partner “she decides it’s time to buy  one of the big new, McMansions across town.” Blair isn’t interested in moving. She also doesn’t understand why her dog, Wendy, isn’t allowed to come. The dog is old and incontinent and Mrs. Brost says they’ve found her a new home, which isn’t exactly true.

Ardith lives with her alcoholic parents and older brother, a good-looking, charming snake.

You call your parents Connie and Gil, because they hate the heavy tags of Mom and Dad, and buy baggy, boring clothing so your mother won’t borrow them. Your hair is short because the guys like it long…

Blair and Ardith are trying to navigate the slippery terrain between childhood and adulthood and they don’t really have any positive role models. In fact, the only adult who takes any real interest in them is Officer Dave Finderne, a cop who finds them wandering home after a night at the pool.

Leftovers has elements of suspense. There are questions that need to be answered and readers will turn the pages quickly to find them. But this novel also cracks open the lives of adolescent girls, where the only way to survive is to know the rules:

Never bow before your tormentors.

Never let them know you’re vulnerable, especially when you are.

Never trust someone else to protect you, and never forget that every choice you make is on you.

Ardith and Blair are compelling narrators and their story is both heart-breaking and authentic. As both a mom and a high school teacher, I found Leftovers difficult to read (I just wanted to bring these girls home with me), but I think it has important things to say and it says them beautifully.

Highly recommended.