Tuesday, July 5, 2011

[Review] The Taste of Apple by James Laidler

Title: The Taste of Apple {goodreads}
Author: James Laidler 
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 01/09/10
Publisher: Interactive Publications
Source: Author for review
Age: 14+ Moderate language and dark themes
Pages: 330
My Rating:

Pedro Jones is lost. Abandoned by his father and forced into commission housing with his Filipino immigrant mother, the future seems bleak.

But when Pedro meets the 'mad' street busker, Johnny Lazzaro, and gets involved with the East Timor freedom movement, life takes an unexpected detour through the uncharted backblocks of the human heart.
My thoughts: 

To say I'm surprised that I actually liked this is an understatement. My track record with verse novels, I admit, hasn't been very good - I normally have problems connecting with the characters. However, with THE TASTE OF APPLE, this isn't an issue. Possibly because there are just so many dimensions, that I felt I actually knew the characters.

Pedro Jones has a fairly ordinary difficult upbringing, and when his father abandons him and his mother and sister, he's forced into commission housing. Living on the 'poor' side of my city personally I understood all the problems with ethnicity. In a rich and diverse multicultural population, criticism and racism runs rampant regardless that we are a "united" country. And for that I appreciated the realistic outlook of the racial struggle.

What I really loved about this book was the audio tracks that are included. See, this publisher and author thought it really clever to add an extra component to the reading experience. The CD includes 13 tracks, an assortment of thoughtful and meaningful poems. They brought an extra PUNCH to the book that reading alone just cannot deliver. It would also make this book a great one for reluctant readers - verse novel + music. The songs are also really cleverly crafted, with instrumentals normally over a loop replay but it really works with the lyrics/poetry. For an example, watch the trailer.

Pedro himself is a pretty average teenage boy whose interests lie in writing poetry. His future is threatened by a financial and emotional disposition but after he meets Juan 'Johnny' Lazzaro everything changes. The two form a strangely close friendship, and Pedro finds something to really care about.

The poems themselves were amazing. The complexities in its structure and word choice are well thought-out - and it shows! There is a tonne of quote-worthy passages in this book. It's rather a shame that I didn't tab any; I was flying through it before I found it a good idea to do so.

Laidler suggests this would be a good book to study for HSC/VCE English (Module: Belonging), to which I wholeheartedly agree. The book delves into belonging in an obvious way, AND it is simple but complex enough for students to dissect and interpret the book.

Overall, just a really worthwhile, thought-provoking read. The book is actually reminiscent of many contemporary YA books I've read, because of the themes and issues that were explored. It's really just an extraordinary VERSE NOVEL that will stick for weeks upon weeks.


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Fishpond | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

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Amazon | The Book Depository *


Author Site

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: Aussie YA Challenge

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