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Surviving the Applewhites (Applewhites #1)

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  9,846 Ratings  ·  609 Reviews
Will anyone take on Jake Semple?

Jake Semple is notorious. Rumor has it he burned down his old school and got kicked out of every school in his home state.

Only one place will take him now, and that's a home school run by the Applewhites, a chaotic and hilarious family of artists. The only one who doesn't fit the Applewhite mold is E.D.—a smart, sensible girl who immediately
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 23rd 2003 by HarperTrophy (first published August 6th 2002)
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Lexi Escamilla No, I don't know what you mean, this book was horrible and its depressing that you think it's remotely well written. good day to you.

Community Reviews

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Mar 21, 2008 Kristine rated it did not like it
Seriously I could not have expected a less realistic representation of the metamorphosis of a teenage foster child. I wanted to shake the author and ask her why a teenage boy abandoned by both parents as well as booted out by his grandfather had no REAL issues with trust, attachment, or authority. Seriously even the best of the best kids are going to have a MUCH harder time than represented here. The thought process of Jake when thinking about his life and choices just seemed way too simplistic. ...more
Aug 25, 2011 Josiah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When reading a Newbery book, I generally enter into the experience with higher expectations than I have for most other books. That gold or silver medal on the cover, letting me know that the ALA Newbery committee for that year considered the novel I'm holding in my hands to be worthy of mention alongside such classics as Charlotte's Web, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Number the Stars, is perhaps the most important external sign I look for in the books that I read.

Mar 04, 2011 Sara rated it it was ok
Ummmmmm... was there a point to this book? Because it didn't seem like it. First of all, Jake wasn't even that bad. I'm sorry, but he wasn't. He smoked for like the first few chapters and then gave it up because everyone kept stomping on his cigarettes (Wouldn't a bad kid have done it anyway in secret?). He swore at first but then that got less and less as the book went on. And if he was really bad enough to burn down a school wouldn't he have like hit the dog or Destiny if they were really both ...more
This book has genuinely changed my life more than once. I first read it in the fourth or fifth grade, and fell in love with E.D., who has become a more accurate portrayal of myself since then. I turned to this book whenever I was upset, or excited, or confused, and somehow, rationally or not, it always provided. I literally finished an essay about it last week, and I am now a junior in high school.

The most definitive moment when it touched my life directly was when a kid very, very similar to J
Aug 21, 2012 Janet rated it really liked it
A bit over the top, but full of heart and tons of fun, this is the story of an apparently incorrigible middle-school delinquent and the artistic, eccentric family who might just bring him around. Jake Semple has been kicked out of every school in Rhode Island, and sent to North Carolina to live with his grandfather. After being expelled from yet another school, Jake finds himself taken in by the Applewhites, a sprawling family of artists with a disorganized homeschool and just one highly organiz ...more
I read this in my quest to read every children's book featuring modern homeschooled characters (there are shockingly few out there). It's a fun story about a homeschooling family that takes in a rebellious boy who has been expelled from school for getting into too much trouble. The story is about how the boy relaxes into his new situation and finds the freedom to discover himself in the midst of it.

The book relies on the stereotype of homeschoolers as eccentric, artsy types, but they're not too
Lisa Rathbun
Aug 11, 2011 Lisa Rathbun rated it did not like it
For me, this was forgettable. The characters are weirdly self-absorbed but also all amazingly come together to help put on a play at the end. The kids work unrealistically hard on their homeschooling, instead of goofing off listening to music or playing video games all day, which I think they might tend to do realistically if they had as little adult supervision as they did in this book. I liked E.D., but by the end the focus on her seemed to just drop; I missed her perspective at the end. It se ...more
Mar 27, 2017 Jerry rated it it was ok
This one had its moments, but, overall, it was a dud.
Ms. Darcy
I admit I have not read this book in years, but I remember it being one of my favorite books when I was younger. I still get really excited whenever I see a Great Spangled Fritillery. As a homeschooler myself, I thought the Applewhite family was a hilarious. Yes, they are all completely over the top and absurd, but I think they are better done than most characters you will find in books targeting at this same age group.

What also really appealed to me for this book is that the youngest kid, I fo
Jake Stemple is considered one of the ultimate bad boys. He's been kicked out of every school he's ever attended. Then he ends up at Wit's End. Wit's End is where the Applewhite family lives. The Applewhite children are all home schooled and Jake's grandfather has decided that Jake will be joining them. Jake moves in with the Applewhites and realizes that they are all crazy artists, but he is eventually sucked in and joins the family for a massive project that will take everyone's skills.

I liked
Apr 29, 2009 Jacki rated it liked it
North Carolina! woo!
I think that's what originally sparked my interest in the book.
The book was well written, though rather predictable. It was subtle where it needed to be, explicit where it worked, and well rounded in it's characters. The use of flipping between E.D.'s and Jake's perspectives was very effective with clean breaks in between. There were a few places that I hoped for more expansion and exploration and the goat's role seemed to cut itself short. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed
Nola Redd
Apr 18, 2012 Nola Redd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my daughter's favorite names, perhaps because she goes by the same initials of the female lead. I enjoy it, it's a light read that makes me take another look at how our family chooses to homeschool. The characters are quirky and fun. I've seen criticism that Jake's family problems should leave him more "hardened" than he is, but, after some consideration, I don't think that necessarily pans out. As one reviewer noted, "His parents are in prison for selling pot, it's not like they' ...more
Oct 29, 2013 Jasmyn rated it did not like it
Surviving the Applewhites is possibly the driest book that I have ever read, or will read. This book is about a bad boy, Jake Semple, who was determined to remain the bad boy t every school he went to. Jake had pulled the last straw after burning down his school in the city. His social worker and grandfather sent him to the creative academy, the Applewhites homeschool. From this point on Jake and E.D., the second oldet daughter in the Applewhite family, switch off perspectives every other chapte ...more
Sep 03, 2011 Thebruce1314 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't expecting to really like this book when I started it; the thought of another troubled-teen-turned-around book annoyed me. The back cover begins by saying, "Jake Semple is a scary kid. Word has it that he burned down his old school and then was kicked out of every other school in his home state." He is then sent to be home-schooled by the Applewhite family in North Carolina, where the students (consisting only of the family and Jake) are given creative license to learn according to their ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Stick a juvenile delinquent into a home school run by a bunch of talented art family members and you've got a fun read. It describes a school environment that I wish I had and little bit like my kids had. I really liked this book even if it had problems. It doesn't dive to deep into any feelings that Jake might have about being abandoned, being dumped into a school of art freaks, any trouble he might have adjusting etc. etc. etc. (the list just keeps going)

But I found the premise interesting, th
Aug 16, 2009 Sps rated it it was ok
Shelves: elem, story
When I wasn't very far into this (60 pages or so) it already bored me. The characters were flat stereotypes and I got no sense of their interior lives, despite lots of telling-rather-than-showing on Tolan's part. Furthermore, I work with four-year-olds, and that ain't a four-year-old. Especially not one raised in a chaotic environment of adult narcissists who do not engage with the child.

Could I predict the plot? You bet. Did I care about what happens to these characters? Heck no. I don't feel
Ms. Foley
Oct 11, 2012 Ms. Foley rated it really liked it
This a story about a juvenile deliquent boy who is sent to live with a very unusual and artistic family instead of being put into jail. In some ways, he finds it harder than actually being in jail. It's about fitting in by not fitting in and being true to yourself. There's a lot in the story about putting on a play, so if you are into drama, you would probably like this story.
Brigid *Flying Kick-a-pow!*
oohh i had to read this for eighth grade english. hated it. hate, hate, hate. the whole thing was such a bit cliché, like, "the punk kid becomes nice when he discovers that he is talented at acting!" barf. plus it was one of those books centering around a "wacky family" where each family member felt so forced, like the author had tried too hard to make everyone "unique". i hate that. :P
Feb 12, 2011 Rebecca rated it liked it
For the genre and age group this book was written for, I'd give this a 3. I believe it had a great moral lesson; everyone is needed and everyone has their personal strengths. Cute book, but a more suitable read for my 10 year old.
Daisy Paquet
Apr 16, 2017 Daisy Paquet rated it really liked it
{3.5 } This book was... interesting. We have a love/hate relationship. Give me a moment while I try to collect my thoughts.


sadly, my friends, the list ends there.

I guess I'm weird but the characters all made me WANT TO PULL MY HAIR OUT. There was like 0% communication in this book, which I guess was kind of the point, but still.
Also: the beginning was... boring.

I'm sorry, but it is true. It was also hard to
Sep 07, 2015 J.D.Staton rated it liked it
The genuine chaos and lack of personal responsibility displayed by each of the adults in this book almost halted me from finishing it. No child thrives in a completely unpredictable and unstructured household, yet that was precisely what this one was, with animals and children running wild without anything remotely like decent or predictable supervision, meals, dietary practices, goals, rules, boundaries, communications, and so much more found anywhere. Each of the adults was so intensely wrappe ...more
Jacob C
Oct 30, 2015 Jacob C rated it really liked it
Surviving the Applewhites

Jake Semple is 14 year old troubled kid boy, who tends to break most if not all the rules on purpose. Now his last resort before the Juvenile Detention Hall is the Applewhite Academy. The Academy is where the students are allowed to pursue their own personal passion. For example each kid has there own different talent, Hal is a sculptor, and rarely comes out of his room. Destiny the youngest has already found out he likes painting. Jake joins a play as one of the main ro
Sep 18, 2015 Shuabrown rated it liked it
Stephanie S. Tolan's book Surviving the Applewhites is a great book that shows that even the worst people have some good in them. Jake Semple is a scary kid. Word has it that he burned down his old school and then was kicked out of every school in his home state. Only a few weeks into September, the middle school in Traybridge, North Carolina, has thrown him out too. Now there's only one place left that will take him: a home school run by the weirdest, most outrageous, quarrelsome family you'll ...more
Oct 27, 2014 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: family-titles
The five is Owen's rating. While I enjoyed it, I'm thinking more of a 3.5, some parts as a 4, with a really wonderful ending line. When I asked Owen why the high rating, he said because it wasn't sad. And he's right. It wasn't -- it was happy, funny and altogether charming, without being saccharine.

One particular place where it shined above many other children's books is that it didn't spell everything out for you. There were a lot of inferences to be made, and a lot of opportunities for discuss
David Slater
The setup: a teen delinquent is given one last chance to avoid juvie at a home school run by a madcap family of artists, the Applewhites. While the book's leisurely-paced charm is undeniable, so are its various flaws. First, the quirky cast of characters are straight from stock (distracted writer, kooky vegetarian New Ager, drama-queen...dramatist), though young readers are not likely to know or care. Much more significant is that the setup is revealed to be a contrivance, as the swearing, smoki ...more
Karla Fuerte
Dec 07, 2015 Karla Fuerte rated it really liked it
Surviving the Applewhites is the story of Jake Semple who after accidentally burning down his school was forced by his grandfather to like with a very different artistic family, so he doesn't have to be sent to a juvenile detention center. When he first meets this family he knows he doesn't belong he has red dye hair gelled in spikes, eyebrow piercing, and wears all black clothing. There is also E.D a girl the same age as Jake she feels as though she is invisible since she has no artistic talent ...more
Feb 17, 2016 CarlosF rated it it was amazing
Surviving the Applewhites is a story about a boy named Jake Semple, who grew up in a bad family environment; one of his parents was a drug dealer. Because he is a lost kid, he gets kicked out of many schools, even burning down his last school. As a last resort he is sent to live with a family, called the Applewhites, who own the Applewhite's Creative Academy. Although Jake is skeptical of the bizarre family, eventually, he assimilates and becomes part of one of their theater productions. Gradual ...more
Monica Williams
Apr 24, 2014 Monica Williams rated it really liked it
How did I not know about how awesome this book was sooner? Jake Semple is one step away from being sent to Juvenile Detention. He is one angry kid who wears his hair in red spikes, swears like a sailor, and tried to burn down his school. He is trouble and proud of it. His parents are both in jail after trying to sell some pot to a police officer. He is sent to be part of the homeschooling program run by the artistic Applewhites. The Applewhites are an interesting bunch- all with varied talents e ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tween-fiction
My daughter and I both read this when she was 11 and I was around 38. We both adored it. We both recently reread it as a 15 year old and 42 year old. Still love it! It's just fun but also thoughtful and inspiring. Inspiring in the best way in that it just shows what talents and passions live in us. Not inspiring in the sappy 21st century children's fiction way of fighting for civil rights or saving the planet as an 8 year old. It does not burden children with things like LGBT rights or drugs or ...more
'Surviving the Applewhites' was just so-so. I would have liked to see more development in the relationship between Jake and E.D. because they were set up pretty early as the main characters who butted heads constantly. Instead we see them basically existing parallel to each other with little to no real interaction. Also, I don't like the Applewhites; they're kind of jerky people.

Ms. Tolan obviously has very little knowledge about homeschooling. Speaking as a former homeschool kid from North Caro
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Unit 01 Award Winning Book - Surviving the Applewhites 1 12 Aug 25, 2012 07:40AM  
Surviving the Applewhites 1 20 Feb 10, 2009 04:38PM  
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Stephanie S. Tolan's earliest memories involve books. Those that were read to her and those she read to herself, often late at night with a flashlight under the covers. She always thought there was a special magic in the little black marks on paper that could turn into whole worlds and real people. Born in Ohio and raised in Wisconsin, she wrote her first story in the fourth grade. It was thrillin ...more
More about Stephanie S. Tolan...

Other Books in the Series

Applewhites (3 books)
  • Applewhites at Wit's End (Applewhites, #2)
  • Applewhites Coast to Coast

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