Apple and Rain ISBN: 9781408827130
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2015
Apple at thirteen seems a reasonably happy teenager, but she has one major problem in her life. Her single mother left home when she was three - to go on the stage in New York - and since then Apple has been convinced she would come back one day and all would be well. She lives with her Nana, who loves her but is strict, and Apple is convinced that her mother would be more understanding. Her dad appears on the scene from time to time, but has never been particularly interested, and his wife is even less so. When mum does come home, things are more complicated than Apple would have wished. In the first place, she brings with her a new half sister that neither she nor Nana even knew existed. Rain is ten, and by my calculations would have been on the way before mum left, and the little girl has developed a fetish for her doll Jenny. To Rain, Jenny is real, really real, and she spends all her time feeding, changing and cuddling the doll - to the point that exasperates anyone around her. School has not worked for Rain because Jenny must go too, and the school can't cope. There really is a problem here, and it causes Apple to resent her sister even more. She is convinced that Rain needs a doctor, but mum won't hear of it, and because mum is constantly away trying to get acting jobs, Apple ends up looking after Rain. While mum comes over as being feckless, she also cares for her daughters even though that caring takes remarkable turns. Nana, who is fed up with her daughter's behaviour, is very forthright about this and causes tension between herself and Apple. When Apple goes to live with her mum and Rain in a flat, things become difficult all round. The resolution to all this involves an understanding teacher, who brings alive Apple's growing interest in and talent for poetry, an unusual boy who understands Apple's problems and helps her and Rain, and Apple's own growing understanding of Rain's needs, her mum's real personality and her own too high expectations. Poetry is absolutely central to this story, both Apple's own and the poetry she is taught in class, and it proves a moving catalyst for so much that happens. This is a superb novel, beautifully written, with great psychological understanding. There is hope at the end that Apple, Rain and their grandmother and mother may come to some kind of compromise life that will suit them all, but it is by no means certain. Nana will always be the kingpin of the family, and the girls will have to learn to accept her strictness as well as her love. Mum's love will always be of a different kind. Get it! Read it! Enjoy!