Apple’s got plenty to contend with: her best friend’s deserted her, the boy she’s attracted to barely knows she exists, and her overprotective Nana is a source of embarrassment at school—but what hurts most is her glamorous mother’s abandonment 11 years ago.
At first, her mother’s unexpected return feels like a dream come true, but Apple’s euphoria fades when she realizes Mum didn’t return to rescue her but to be rescued herself from having to raise her younger daughter, Rain, 10, whose existence is a surprise to Apple and Nana, Mum’s mother. Apple, 14, suppresses her doubts when she’s invited to move in with Mum and Rain—the prospect trumps life with Nana. At least Mum won’t insist on driving Apple to school. Instead, Mum urges alcohol on Apple and her classmates, flirts with Apple’s crush, and disappears for days at a time, leaving Apple to skip school and care for troubled Rain. Her English teacher’s poetry assignments encourage Apple, a budding writer, to examine and express her complicated feelings, giving rise to important insights. Her friendship with a new classmate, Del, is a further support. Appealing but naïve, Apple feels more preteen than teen. Most characters, including Nana and Rain, are compassionately drawn—the exception is Mum, whose monstrous narcissism goes far beyond anything Nana’s self-confessed strict parenting can explain.
A realistic if gently didactic tale about growing up and parenting. (Fiction. 11-14)