The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne

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The Thing About Leftovers

C.C. Payne, Author

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Jul. 19, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 10 and up

Themes: Divorce, Family Relationships, Cooking Contest, Friendships

Synopsis: 12-year-old Fizzy is dealing with a lot of change in her life since her parents divorce, including a new stepmother. She’s moved to a new town, Lush Valley, where yards are manicured and the girls at school dress like models. Fizzy doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere — at home with her mother’s new boyfriend or her father’s perfect wife. She also is on the wrong side of the principal and her math teacher because she’s always tardy; her mother always runs late. Fizzy’s life seems to focus around constantly packing and unpacking her suitcase as she is shuffled back and forth between her parents homes every week. She feels like a leftover, no matter how hard she tries to be perfect.

Fizzy is luck to have her Aunt Liz, who shares Fizzy’s passion for southern cooking. When her aunt tells her about the Southern Living Cook-Off, Fizzy is fired up. Cooking is a distraction for Fizzy. So she and her aunt begin sorting through possible family recipes. Fizzy is talented at taking a recipe and making it her own.  She’s excited about the famous cooking contest, her new friendships with Miyoko and Zach, and her dream of winning. If she succeeds, maybe her parents will notice and love her.

Why I like this book:

C.C. Bell has written a novel that will have universal appeal for teens dealing with the complexities of divorce, separation, parental loss, step-parents and blended families. Payne’s skillfully weaves the metaphor of left-overs throughout the story to depict Fizzy’s predicament. People aren’t crazy about eating left-overs, just as Fizzy feels like she’s “the left-over kid from a marriage and a family that no longer exists.” Her parents are so preoccupied with their own lives, she feels invisible and not appreciated.

The book is character-driven and the plot is realistic. It is an entertaining read about a tough topic. Fizzy narrates the story. Payne nails Fizzy’s dramatic, sarcastic, and witty voice. She digs deeply into Fizzy’s turmoil and her tendency to internalize her hurt feelings, which is a big problem for her. Instead of talking over her worries with her parents, aunt  or a school counselor, she lets everything simmer until her pain reaches a boiling point. Perhaps readers will learn from Fizzy and make different choices about their own lives. Others will cheer for Fizzy. Verdict: Be ready to both cry and laugh as you read The Thing About Leftovers! It’s a winner!

For teens who enjoy cooking, this book would pair nicely with the Baking Life of Amelie Day, about a girl with Cystic Fibrosis who competes in a cooking contest. Each protagonist has a different challenge, but the cooking themes link these two novels and makes them satisfying reads.

C.C. Payne is the author of Something to Sing About, Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair.  Visit C.C. Payne at her website.

Note: A special thank you to Rosi Hollinbeck. I won the copy of this novel on her blog, The Write Stuff,  last September. I really enjoyed spending my evenings with Fizzy in The Thing About Leftovers.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

22 thoughts on “The Thing About Leftovers by C.C. Payne

  1. Great choice. Sounds like fun. Mom has a friend who used to be that little girl (and actually won one of the many contests she entered). She’ll recommend it, even though she’s a grown up now.

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake

  2. I hate to cook, but I love to read about people who cook (and I like to watch cooking shows on TV). This sounds like a great book. I love the MC’s name. How can you not like someone named Fizzy? =)

    • I agree. Her nickname is unusual. The story is one teens who are dealing with divorce will relate to. But, the cooking contests and all of the recipes Fizzy whips up are great fun!

  3. Love how the metaphor weaves through this story & how cooking, a pursuit so enjoyed by kids (at least my kids), is presented as a skill to master, like a sport or artistic endeavor. Wonderful choice & review, as always!

    • Yes, the metaphor beautifully woven throughout the story and is central to the story. I have now reviewed three MG novels with cooking themes. Each very different. I remember loving to cook as a teen. So this book satisfies many readers.

  4. I really enjoyed this one, too. Even though Fizzy had a tendency to whine about her life, so many kids are in her same situation that this will make for good bibliotherapy. Thanks for featuring it this week.

    • Your comment made me chuckle. I thought about Fizzy whining, but didn’t want to use the word in my review as I was afraid it might turn people away. But, I agree that so many teens whine and are overly dramatic. And Fizzy internalized so much, rather than talking with someone to help her cope or handle certain situations, that she finally collapses. This is a good message for teens about bottling up feelings. I really enjoyed this story.

  5. I remember reading about this book on Rosi’s blog. There do seem to be more cooking-related books than there were years ago. And a book about divorce that’s still entertaining must be a gem.

  6. I’m happy about the increase in books with a cooking theme bercause my daughter is a reluctant reader but does love to cook, so might approve of those books featuring cooking. This one sounds great.

  7. This sounds like a perfect book for kids going through a divorce, especially since it’s realistic. I actually know a certain person who could use this book. Thanks a bunch!! 🙂

    • It is a helpful book for kids going through a divorce or dealing with parents remarrying. Like Fizzy, many feel like “leftovers” and don’t know where they belong. That’s why cooking becomes her passion and escape.

  8. Mixed families are so the norm now, right? It’s great to have a new middle grade about this. It would also pair well with Kat Yeh’s TWINKIE PIE.

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