Monday, August 25, 2014

Apple and Rain

Author: Sarah CrossanGoodreads Rating: 4.15
Pages: 330 Pages
Format: ARC from Bloomsbury UK

When Apple's mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bittersweet. It's only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are.

                             A story about sad endings.
                             A story about happy beginnings.
                             A story to make you realise who is special.

The tagline on the front cover of Apple and Rain reads: A story to fix a broken heart. As I read, I thought a lot about the decision to place that tagline there. It wasn’t until the end that I truly appreciated its appearance. And just so you know, if your heart wasn’t broken at the beginning of the book, the story itself will probably break your heart and it will take all 330 pages to put it back together again.
Sarah Crossan’s second novel introduces readers Apple Apostolpoulou, a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her Nana and was abandoned by her mother when she was younger. Every year she clings to the idea that her mother will return and dreams of the chance to escape from under her grandmother’s strict gaze or her father and his new wife’s ‘joyous’ baby news. However, when her mother returns along with a very big secret, Apple realizes that maybe what she hoped for most is not all that she imagined.

Sarah Crossan is a wonderful writer and so fine-tuned to young girls’ emotions and the warzone that secondary school can be. Everything that Apple was going through and experiencing felt so real. Her rocky friendship after her best friend dumps her for a more popular girl, the desperation she feels at wanting her crush notice her, the way she worries about telling the truth in her English classroom, it all felt as authentic as if readers were reliving our own middle school experiences. The horrible thing, though, was that I couldn’t tell Apple that everything would be okay. I had to remind myself she was a fictional character and not one I could reach through the pages to give a hug. I think it’s because this novel is so truthful in many ways, all of what happens to Apple has probably happened before and will happen again to real life children, and it’s so easy to empathize with her.

There may be some discussion with this novel about whether it’s Middle Grade or YA. Overwhelmingly, I would say that this is definitely a YA. There’s discussion of a lot of adult themes and Apple’s innocence, intact at the beginning of the novel in the way only a middle schooler can be na├»ve and young, is gone by the end. The character development is amazing and while again, my heart ached for her having to grow up so fast, it really was amazing to see her transformation.

Even though it’s a quick read, there’s so much going on that just adds to the already wonderful qualities of this novel. Apple’s English teacher, who reminded me so much of my own favorite English teachers, is a intelligent and understanding professional who’s lessons engage Apple in ways other teachers have not been able to. She finds an interest and a talent in poetry and even though she hands in other homework to avoid being so personal, she finds that she really enjoys reading and writing. The poetry and assignments that Mr. Gaydon gives his classmates works as a backdrop for Apple’s personal life. As she starts to realize the meanings of the poems, she learns more about herself and her family. It’s poetry’s job to transform, Mr. Gaydon tells his class, and it definitely worked it’s magic on Apple.

Besides Mr. Gaydon, there were a host of other brilliant characters in this novel that added to the overall amazing experience of reading it. Rain, Apple’s unexpected little sister, is as precocious and adorable as Apple. Del, the neighbor and classmate, also proves to be an understanding and exquisite character as well. And while Apple may not have the greatest parental figure in her own mother, Sarah Crossan has created her Nana into a well-rounded and realistic guardian.

By the end of this novel, I felt my heart swell as much as it had broken in the previous pages. I grinned with pride at Apple’s growth. It was the perfect end to this story. Even though some may argue that YA authors give readers the ending they want, I could not see this novel completing in any other way. It was the way the story had to finish and it was the only appropriate ending.
So please read Apple and Rain. Read it when you’re happy, read it when you’re sad. Or read it when you want to be either. You’re bound to emerge feeling even better when you’re done. And after you’ve grinned like a fool for a few minutes after reading it, pass it on to a friend. A novel like this is definitely meant to be shared.

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