Apple Yengko has one possession from the Philippines—a Beatles cassette tape with her father’s name written on it. She knows every song by heart.
After her father’s death when she was very young, Apple and her mother moved to the United States. There is not much diversity in Apple’s small Louisiana town. Her classmates call her Chinese though she is Filipina and bully her with taunts of “dog-eater.” Apple’s self-esteem plummets when she learns she is on the Dog Log, the boys’ list of the ugliest girls, and her friends abandon her. She hates her name, her mother’s accent, the shape of her eyes, everything that makes her different. She takes refuge in music, becoming determined to get her own guitar, despite her mother’s protests. Slowly, Apple develops new, healthy friendships. She comes to see through the cruelty of her classmates and to discover the unique characteristics that make her special. Each character in Kelly’s debut novel—the mean kids, the misfits, the adults and Apple herself—is portrayed with remarkable authenticity. The awkwardness and intense feelings inherent to middle school are palpable.
Children’s literature has been waiting for Apple Yengko—a strong, Asian-American girl whose ethnic identity simultaneously complicates and enriches her life. (Fiction. 9-14)