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Bad Apple

Review

Bad Apple

Tola Riley is used to being the subject of attention at school. After all, she likes piercings, green hair, fairy tales and art --- not a recipe for making best friends with the “in” crowd. Tola doesn’t care, though; she has her best friend, June, and her art teacher, Mr. Mymer. But when somebody starts a vicious rumor, Mr. Mymer is suspended and Tola has to face suspicion and accusation everywhere she turns. Talented author Laura Ruby, who took on the issue of “sexting” before it was even a word in GOOD GIRLS, once again forces readers to think about the truth and the people living behind the hyped-up media stories and issues.

Life wasn’t exactly easy for Tola before the storm hit, but now she feels like a princess in an untouchable tower. She’s keen on the authentic Grimm’s Fairy Tales, full of violence and mayhem --- images she projects in her paintings. Her father is a painter, but she never sees him anymore; she and her sister, Madge, were not even invited to his wedding. So when she starts having lunch in the art studio and talking to Mr. Mymer, she feels like she finally has someone who understands her and with whom she can confide. But a chance meeting at a museum on a weekend where they both happened to be sparks a rumor, sending all that is good in her life into a downward spiral.

The catalyst behind Tola’s misery is Chelsea. The two used to be good friends but parted ways before high school when Chelsea wanted to start meeting the friends she had made online, and Tola refused. This propelled Chelsea into terrible situations, and she sees Tola as the one at fault. As payback, she starts a blog and pretends to be Tola in order to keep the rumors and scandals about Tola and Mr. Mymer going. Tola has no proof that Chelsea is behind all her problems, but readers are allowed a glimpse into this troubled girl’s life and motivation.

The only one not buying into the lies is Tola’s Grandpa Joe, who listens when she insists nothing inappropriate was going on with Mr. Mymer. He believes in her and her painting, and offers the only encouragement she is getting now. Her mother and stepfather do not discuss it directly but make her come home right after school and stay there. Her mother also leads a campaign to get Mr. Mymer fired. Tola tries to speak up at the board meeting and insist that nothing happened, but it’s no use.

Plenty of stories about teachers being inappropriate with teens are true, but in BAD APPLE someone has made false accusations just for the fun of it. Tola finds a way to move on from being the school victim with an artistic triumph, but the lack of justice at the end is realistic for the situation. The story is really about Tola and her family, and readers will be rooting for her to find a way to heal. All other characters are vivid actors on the stage with Tola and help show her struggle; for example, at one point, funny friend June questions if anything really did happen with Mr. Mymer, a doubt that Tola finds exasperating while June is trying to be supportive.

While Tola finds herself in her search to be heard, Mr. Mymer’s career will not be the same again in this compelling, insightful story. Laura Ruby’s characters will resonate with readers days after they’ve finished the final pages.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on October 6, 2009

Bad Apple
by Laura Ruby

  • Publication Date: March 8, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0061243337
  • ISBN-13: 9780061243332