Review: Bad Apple by Laura Ruby

Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (October 6, 2009)
Paperback: 256 pages
Price: $11.55 from Amazon
For Tola Riley, life is not a fairy tale, it only feels like one. She's got evil classmates, a runaway dad, a wicked stepmother, a possible Prince Charming, and her very own troll. But it's only when someone accuses her of having an affair with her art teacher that her whole world turns into something out of Grimm's. Because the person accusing her is her own mother.
"If I really wanted to open up, I'd confess that I really am the liar everyone believes I am."

High-school junior Tola has green hair, a nose ring, an attitude problem, and a fondness for fairy tales, which are a great escape from real life. Everyone thinks she's crazy; everyone says so. Everyone except Mr. Mymer, her art teacher. He gets her paintings and lets her hang out in the art room during lonely lunch periods.

But then rumors start flying and Tola is suddenly the center of a scandal. The whole town is judging her—even her family. When Mr. Mymer is suspended for what everyone thinks is an affair, she has no choice but to break her silence. Fairy tales won't help her this time . . . so how can she tell the truth? And, more importantly, will anyone believe her?



Review: I’m going to let that summary sink in for a little while.
Emerald green hair.
A depressed sister, forbearing mother, and absent father.
Supposed affair with her art teacher.
If you’re thinking what? right now, then be assured that you’re normal; because that’s exactly what I thought when I read the premise of Bad Apple. Unless I’m weird, but then everyone is normal because we’re all weird... WELL. Bad Apple is definitely a novel that fiddles with your mind at times, denouncing what you thought you knew and what you perceived things to be. And if that didn’t make sense, read on!

I’m going to start off by saying what I loved, loved, loved about this book: the comments sections between every two chapters. They offer blunt, realistic quotes from different characters, and through what they said, I got to know some characters that didn’t appear much in the story. Kudos for a creative (considering it’s a police investigation and all) method to reveal development throughout the story; it’s like twenty different personality types stuffed into one book! And "stuffed" in a good way because I didn't feel overloaded with the multitude of minor characters. And, well, I’m a major fan of Twilight, but I can definitely enjoy some humor at its expense. Definitely.

Quote taken from Tola’s sister, Madge/Tiffany:

“I’m supposed to be watching Twilight? Let me tell you something, the pretty, sparkly vampires aren’t coming to save us. We’re not worthy. We’re not special. We don’t even smell good.”

Excuse me while I crack up, lol.

Anyways, I guess that sort of brings me to the topic of Tola. The best word I can come up with is unique. Physically, her appearance is definitely out of the ordinary, but deep inside she has just the same problems as everyone else: insecurity, discontent, family issues. What sets her apart is her view of the world. I have a hard time describing it, but Tola notices insignificant things and makes them symbolic, especially when it comes to fairytales, and she’s is simply herself. Her character was a refreshing break from the endless string of no-way-I’m-beautiful and the holy-cow-I’m-different types of girls I seem to happen upon more and more often. Not saying those girls are bad, but it’s nice to be different once in a while.

I do have to say that I wanted to see a little bit more of Mr. Mymer, the teacher that Tola is rumored to have had an affair with. Though he’s mentioned often in passing and gives a comment, he actually never shows up through the entire book. Bad Apple jumps in fast, and I wish I had gotten the 101 on the affair before I started reading about how Tola deals with the consequences. The fact that it took me a while to get in the “flow” of Laura Ruby’s writing probably didn’t help my understanding, though I do like Laura’s writing and it was very in person with Tola’s character. So even if you don’t really “feel” the book at the beginning, I would strongly (notice the underline here!) recommend that you read more before you set it down.

Overall, the story unfolded nicely, with Tola undergoing some major self-discovery and actually world-discovery in general. Kind of like the Discovery Channel: High School Edition and with a tuft of green hair in the middle. The ending definitely had me pleased; relationships were definied, emotions uncovered, meaning found, etc. I sometimes felt Tola was little too blase about how she felt on the subject of the affair, but overall she had her own way of dealing with things, and I can respect that. :)

Romance: 2.0 -- There was a little romance, but it was generally restricted. I felt that the guy Tola gets together with, though as unique as Tola herself, isn't as well-developed as he should be and I ended up having neutral feelings about him. Mainly, I thought their romance was a result of attraction rather than knowing the person and wish I could've seen a more gradual progression of their relationship.
Cover: 3.5
Writing: 4.0
Characters: 4.5
Plot: 4.0

Bottom Line: Bad Apple was a very interesting book: some parts weird, all parts unique. Overall, I still have to say it was a fairly light read, though it definitely had some snippets of deep insight tucked in there. I would recommend this one to people looking for a book that diverges from the commonly-taken toad of cliches, talks about self-discovery and personal identity, and contains a certain girl with some emerald green hair struggling to deal with some major high school drama.