Apple and Rain
By Sarah Crossan
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4088 2713 0
Who says families are boring? Thirteen year-old Apple can't remember much about her early childhood, but she does remember the day her mother walked out, leaving her in the care of her grandmother. Dad hadn't been on the scene for a long time, so Apple and Gran have had to do the best they can to get along and create a family unit.
Apple has always believed that one day her mother will come back, but Gran refuses to discuss the idea. When Dad turns up with a new young wife in tow, Apple begins to feel even more isolated, despite her no-nonsense Gran's support.
Sarah Crossan's Apple and Rain explores family bonds and how to mend them when they're broken. Apple is becoming increasing lost both at school and at home. Things are starting to get really strained with Gran, when, completely out of the blue and after a decade away, Apple's mum does turn up at school and whisks Apple away.
With this sudden reappearance of her long-lost mother, Apple's life takes on a new direction. Offering no explanation of where she has been for 10 years, Annie tells her daughter she is back to stay, and plans to make up for lost time. Gran won't believe these promises because she sees through her selfish daughter.
How can Apple sort out the truth from the lies? Can she find the happiness in this sudden new life that she thinks will provide all the answers she's been searching for? It is only when her mother drops a massive bombshell, and Apple meets someone even more lost than she is herself, that the meaning of family really begins to emerge.
Crossan is a subtle and clever writer, and she approaches Apple's story with insight and understanding. The one thing Apple enjoys at school is English, taught by a new teacher who introduces his class to the power of writing and poetry. At home, she begins to write down her feelings and thoughts. She has never written a poem before, but suddenly writing seems to help.
Apple's feelings are revealed to the reader through the poems she writes for school but never hands in. They are simple, but play an essential role here.
Apple and Rain focuses on girl learning to cope with difficulties caused by adults for sometimes selfish reasons. There is much to admire and much to make you think in this beautifully crafted, perceptive tale about families, and the pleasures and problems they bring.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com