Sarah Crossan's Apple and Rain, about a young girl called Apple whose mum abandoned her when she was younger, is one of those books that I think can help young people understand life-changing experiences. And it does that while telling a great story very well, without being preachy.
Apple lives with her grandmother, who is very, very protective. The young girl chafes at the bit at having to be collected from school, at not being able to go out with her friends, and at her gran's reluctance to talk about Apple's mum. So when Apple's mum returns, determined to have fun with her daughter, Apple jumps at the chance to leave her grandmother behind. It's only when Apple discovers she has a younger sister called Rain that she begins to realise her dreams of her mother's return might not all come true.
I've only ever read dystopian novels by Crossan before (Breathe and Resist), but she's adept at recreating the real world in print as she is at creating a whole new world. Apple and Rain feels hooked in reality, from its scenes at Apple's school to her interactions with friends and enemies, to the way Apple's emotions are conveyed. Crossan presents an Apple who, despite her young age, is complex and whose feelings are always treated by Crossan as legitimate. We never frown upon Apple for her reactions because they feel so realistic and so natural.
I particularly loved Apple's poetry, which for me was one of the highlights of the book. I loved seeing a character who was into writing, and who grew to be proud of that. Putting your feelings on paper is never easy, and I hope Apple and Rain can show young people it's cool to do so. In addition, I loved Apple's relationship with her teacher Mr Gaydon, who is definitely one of those inspirational teachers you remember for the rest of your life (hi, Ms McClement).
Apple and Rain is a serious book about serious things, but it's never bleak, and it does have lighter moments (especially whenever Del is around). It is also full of hope, without being sickly sweet and wrapping everything up in a false happy ending. The realism of Apple and Rain is wonderful to see, and I really hope a lot of young people pick up this novel.
How I got this book: From a friend.