Usually Moontrug’s all about the middle grade books (the ones for 8-12 year olds) but recently she read a YA (teens) story that was so absolutely wonderful, she wanted to give it a shout out: Sarah Crossan’s Apple & Rain.
When Apple’s mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. She will have an answer to her burning question – why did you go? But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother’s homecoming is bitter sweet. It’s only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is, that she begins to see things as they really are. Apple discovers something which can help her feel whole from the inside out, not just the outside in.
Just like her first book, The Weight of Water, Apple & Rain is written in an effortlessly beautiful way. The sentences are like fragments of poetry (a subject at the heart of the book) and the reader is drawn into Apple’s fractured world from page 1. Raised by an overly strict grandmother, misunderstood by a father pre-occupied with his new wife, neglected by an actress mother and bullied by a classmate who ‘walks wiggly, like she’s got salsa music playing in her head,’ Apple seems to have everything against her. But out of this, Crossan manages to craft a girl full of hope, one who stands a chance at being ‘transformed’ even though life seems pretty bleak.
Crossan’s characterisation is superb. Moontrug loved the Dead Poet’s Society-style teacher, Mr Gaydon: ‘Poetry can teach us about ourselves. It can comfort us when we are in despair. It can bring joy. It can open us up. It can make our lives bigger and brighter and clearer. It can transform us.’ And the way he nurtures Apple’s talent as a writer is just gorgeous. It would be a plot spoiler to discuss some of the other characters (especially the one with a voice ‘as fragile as a ladybird’s wing’) but Del, the boy who moves next door to Apple, is fabulously original – and Moontrug developed a hugely inappropriate crush on him. When the story gets dark and sad, there’s Del lightening the mood, giving Apple hope: ‘Basically, the poet means that you don’t have to fly your sweetheart to Venice to show her you love her. Sometimes you can just buy someone a Toblerone… It’s the triangles that make it romantic.’ He’s the kind of quirky, thoughtful and funny character teens will love, especially when he comes up with lines like: ‘And then I can use my binoculars to spy on you. Maybe I’ll see your bum.’ Apple and Rain is a beautiful book for teens. Crossan makes you want to cry for Apple’s situation then stand up on a classroom desk and shout about how cool poetry is – because teachers like Mr Gaydon DO have the power to change kids’ lives. Crossan so perfectly gets inside the mind of teenagers, it’s impossible not to feel like you’re living this story with the characters. This is a YA author to watch…