"If I really wanted to open up, I'd confess that I really am the liar everyone believes I am."
Tola Riley loves the fairy tales of Brother's Grimm. Fairy tales are a great escape from real life, and when you're someone like Tola, you need all the help you can get. With her green hair, unusual attire and pierced nose, Tola is used to being the outcast. But life goes from bad to worse when rumors of a teacher-student affair begin to grow and undulate throughout her high school and community. Too busy getting caught up in the frenzy of slanderous rumors and blogs, nobody pays any attention to what Tola has to say. Will anyone ever believe in her for a change?
Bad Apple is my first novel by Laura Ruby and I enjoyed it immensely. I found Tola to be totally believable in her interactions with others and really sympathized with her character. What impressed me most though was the way Laura Ruby handled some rather weighty topics with so much humor. Tola's sardonic wit had me laughing out loud quite a few times. For instance, when her mother is haranguing her at a family dinner gathering for her wardrobe choices, Tola says:
"Uh, Mom we do have pictures of you when you were in high school. I seem to recall a troubled relationship with hair spray."
"I wonder if it's that...man"
My mother won't even speak his name. Mr. Mymer is now in the same league as Voldemort.
While the subject of teacher/student affairs is an important issue brought to center stage, Laura Ruby expertly navigates around other critical topics such as cyber bullying, rumor spreading, divorce and depression. They are all handled with a sensitivity and humor that teens can relate to and adults will appreciate. For me, the most interesting aspect of Bad Apple was how one seemingly isolated negative event could cause a ripple effect so massive that the lives of anyone caught in it's wake were altered- and in diverse ways. It's interesting how different people react to stressful events.
The chapters of Bad Apple are punctuated with comments from Tola's friends and family regarding the affair and their general opinion of Tola as well. This aspect of the book was probably the most entertaining for me. You really do find out who your true friends are when the chips are down. I also enjoyed how people around Tola emulated personality traits from the fairy tales she obsessed over. I would like to note that the "Prince Charming" character was A-ok with me. You've got to love a prince who showers his heart's desire with gourmet homemade cupcakes. Who needs glass slippers when there are delicious butter cream and coconut cupcakes?!
I would recommend Bad Apple to anyone looking for realistic teen fiction and a fresh take on really common issues that all teens will relate to.