See, guys freak out. They hit critical mass and blast nuclear, white-hot anger out over the world like walking flame throwers. But girls freak in. They absorb the pain and bitterness and keep right on sponging it up until they drown. Maybe that’s why nobody’s real worried about girls going off and wreaking havoc. It’s not that the seething hatred and need for revenge isn’t there, hell no. It’s just that instead of erupting and annihilating our tormentors, we destroy ourselves instead. -From Leftovers, Blair’s voice-
Leftovers is the story of two teenage girls – Blair and Ardith – who are mostly social outcasts and have only each other to lean on.
Blair’s mother is a rising star defense attorney who has traded her family for the career she wants. Blair’s father is having a not so subtle affair with his secretary. Both parents have seemingly ripped up their parent cards to pursue their own needs while emotionally abandoning Blair – a soft-spoken 14 year old who loves animals.
Ardith’s family comes from a different social strata. Her parents are alcoholics who allow her brother to rule the house along with his sexually aggressive friends. Ardith’s father gropes the young girls and makes inappropriate jokes, while his wife stands by and blames the girls for dressing provocatively. It’s no wonder we find Ardith bolting her bedroom door at night.
The novel opens by suggesting something horrible has happened. The girls are telling their stories, from the beginning, to an unnamed person in a hospital bed. They reveal their sadness, anger, fear and show the reader what brought them together as the story builds to its conclusion.
This book is written for young adults, and I can see how it would appeal to that age bracket. Weiss seems to understand teenage angst and emotion well, and both Blair and Ardith’s voices are real. Despite this, the novel is overwritten at times. The dysfunction in the story feels over-the-top and not always believable. And when the end finally comes, it underwhelmed me.
Credit should be given to Weiss for tackling issues relevant to young adults and exposing the double standards which effect young girls. The difficult topics of sex, underage drinking, smoking, and sexual identity are all explored in this slim novel. This is a book which would stimulate great discussion between parents and teens.