Saturday, January 02, 2010

Bad Apple Better Left On The Tree

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"I walk down the hall, feeling the weight of eyes. I've always felt the weight of eyes, but now they're heavier, like I'm wearing a lead dress."

- Tola Riley, Bad Apple, p. 14

Tola Riley knows how to stand out from the crowd. With her cropped green hair, nose ring, wild punk outfits, and a reputation for doing/saying/painting anything she cares to, she's definitely marching to the beat of her own drummer. All kinds of stories are circulating about her - some true, some not - and she couldn't care less. Until rumors start flying about her and her favorite teacher, Mr. Mymer. Suddenly, she cares. A lot. Mr. Mymer's the only one on the planet that really gets her, and she can't stand the idea of him getting fired over what someone thinks they saw. Everyone's begging for Tola's side of the story - students, reporters, the school board, her parents - but no one wants to hear the truth.

The Mymer scandal isn't the only thing plaguing Tola, star of Laura Ruby's newest YA novel, Bad Apple. She's dealing with a classmate's vicious cyber bullying, her dad's disappearance from her life, and her beloved Grandpa Joe's failing health. It's bad enough being an artist whose work is constantly misunderstood (except by Mr. Mymer, who's no longer a presence in the art room), but to be the center of the biggest scandal of the year, shaming her already dysfunctional family - well, it's a lot to handle, even for tough, snarky Tola Riley. When it's her against the world, Tola will deal the only way she knows how - her way.

While I give Laura Ruby credit for creating a unique character, Tola was almost too unique for me. Her humor's dark, angsty and bitter. She comes off as a prickly girl who kind of deserves her fate - she's sympathetic in some ways, I just had a hard time feeling it, you know? Teens will probably relate better to her sarcastic, cutting tone. I mean, she's definitely funny, but she's also really off-the-wall. A little too much for me. As far as plot goes, Ruby keeps it moving along at a steady pace. Bad Apple's a quick read, with some substance beyond just the student/teacher "relationship." Still and all, the book's too out there for me. It's not one of those YA books that speaks across generations - or maybe it just didn't speak to me personally. Whatever the reason, I suggest leaving Bad Apple on the tree and looking for more succulent fruit elsewhere.

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language, sexual innuendo, and brief references to homosexuality

To the FTC, with love: I received this ARC from HarperTeen. I think it's obvious that getting the book for free didn't influence my opinion in any way.

4 comments:

  1. But at least that cover is super cool!

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  2. Hmm...I might give this a try even though the protagonist does seem a little out there.

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  3. This sounds like something I might enjoy -- I often relate to people who are "out there." Thanks for your honest review.

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  4. I so appreciate your candor. I struggled with a book that was not a fit for me this week. I've pondered whether I would write a review of what portions of the book I'd read but have decided against it. Certainly the book might be perfect for some but for me I gained more by closing the cover than anything else. Kudos for telling it the way you see it...
    You're awesome!

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