________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008


Rotten Apple.

Rebecca Eckler.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2008.
232 pp., hardcover, $21.00.
ISBN 978-0-385-66318-2.

Grades 7-10 /Ages 12-15.

Review by Andrea Galbraith.

**1/2 /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



What else didn't she know about her soulmate? Obviously, they would never be cuddling up on the couch watching Minors in Malibu, Apple thought dejectedly.

"Well, what about books?" Apple asked. "Do you like to read?"

"You know, car magazines," Zen answered. He pulled one out of his knapsack and started to flip through the pages, then stopped and pointed to a page. "Check out this engine."

Apple didn't know how to respond. She didn't care about cars. She barely liked to be in them. She would walk everywhere if she could. She wasn't even excited to be taking driving lessons soon.

"Well, what's your favorite school subject?" Apple asked, feeling pathetic. It was the same way she felt when people talked about the weather. You only talked about school out of school when you had nothing else to talk about. She just wanted needed something to talk about with Zen that had nothing to do with Happy.

"Science," he said.

"Really," Apple said. Science was her least favorite subject. She hated Science.


Fifteen-year-old Apple is called The Sponge by her friends because she hates to talk about her feelings. She has had a long-standing crush on her classmate, Zen, but has always felt awkward around him, unable to talk easily or show him how she feels. When Zen comes back from six months in Australia transformed into a bronzed hunk, Apple's crush becomes "super-sized." The problem is, her best friend Happy is now interested in Zen, and he seems to be reciprocating. When the two of them begin dating, Apple becomes increasingly distressed, and her pain and confusion lead her into betraying her friend and scheming to keep the relationship from progressing. She feels guilty, but also helpless to stop herself, and she goes as far as to impersonate her mother, a famous talk show host, via email. Eventually, Apple's actions are exposed when a confessional letter she means to write anonymously to her mother gets forwarded to Happy. Happy is extremely angry with Apple and plans to be a guest on Apple's mother's TV show to publicly expose Apple's betrayal. Apple has to decide whether she can face her biggest fears in an attempt to win Happy's trust back.

     Rotten Apple is set in a gated community in a warm climate. Apple and her friends frequently hang out together at the local Spa, or go swimming at the country club. Money is not an issue, and the girls' world revolves around their crushes, IMing, shopping, and watching TV. There seems to be little diversity in the community, and all the teens have unique given names, to an extent that is almost comical, but may accurately reflect such a neighbourhood.

      The narration is third person, from Apple's perspective. As The Sponge, she is a complete contrast to her mother, Bee Bee Berg, who is an expert at drawing people out and who loves nothing more than heartfelt conversation. Apple's reserve is key to the story. Her unrequited crush causes her pain, but she doesn't know how to talk about what she's feeling, or even handle the intensity of her feelings. Apple's character largely determines how the story unfolds, as her choices have consequences, and different choices would have led to different outcomes. By the end of the book, she learns the value of opening up and faces her fears in a life-changing way.

      The characters are well-drawn for the most part, except for Apple's friend, Brooklyn, a platitude-spouting yoga fanatic; and also Zen, who comes off as a little too thoughtful and sensitive for someone whose core interest is car magazines.

      One of the strongest aspects of the book is that partying and hooking up are referred to as being part of the world of these teens, which makes the story realistic, but these elements stay in the background, which allows the issues of honesty and loyalty among friends to be the core of the story.

      Bee Bee Berg's flamboyant assistant, Guy, and Apple's Aunt Hazel are adult characters whose personalities and antics provide many laughs throughout the book. In Apple's eyes, Hazel is a rather pathetic, confused, love-seeking woman; but Hazel is also given the chance of a happy ending and a new start, which is satisfying.

      Readers may enjoy a look inside this rather exotic high-end world and relish a story that is not concerned with anything outside the world of high school romance. There are no politics, no poverty, no real crises of identity or exclusion to be found here. It is a fun, highly readable high school fantasy.


Andrea Galbraith is a student librarian and writer based in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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