Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Publication: Greenwillow Books (March 24, 2015)
Description: Future rock star, or friendless misfit? That's no choice at all. Apple Yengko moved from the Philippines to Louisiana when she was little, and now that she is in middle school, she grapples with being different, with friends and backstabbers, and with following her dreams.
Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. Her mother still cooks Filipino foods, speaks a mix of English and Cebuano, and chastises Apple for becoming "too American." It becomes unbearable in middle school, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple's class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple's friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is. Erin Entrada Kelly deftly brings Apple's conflicted emotions to the page in her debut novel about family, friendship, popularity, and going your own way.
My Thoughts: This is the story of middle schooler Apple Yengko. She and her mother emigrated from the Philippines after her father's death when Apple was four. She is the only Filipino in her Southern Louisiana middle school. And middle school is one of her main problems.
Middle school can often be a time of casual cruelty when every kid wants to be just like all the other kids and every kid is sure that everyone is watching them all the time. It can be especially cruel if a kid is outside of the norm in some way. Apple's best friend Alyssa has bought into the myth and is determined to have a boyfriend and be one of the popular crowd. When Apple finds herself on the Dog List - the list of the ugliest girls in school - Alyssa dumps her in a very cruel manner.
Apple wants to be a musician. She is a huge fan of the Beatles and wants to play the guitar like George Harrison. However, her mother refuses to get her a guitar and wants her to concentrate on her schoolwork and getting a good education. Americanized Apple is sometimes embarrassed by her mother who still speaks with an accent, still cooks Filipino foods, and still spouts her Filipino values.
Apple's attitude starts to change when she meets a new boy in school from California named Evan Temple. Evan isn't swept up in the middle grade desire to be life everyone else. He accepts her just like she is and doesn't want her to change. Well, except maybe, to stop letting the crowd influence her. Apple also gets a chance to get to know another girl on the Dog List. Helena has been hiding the fact that she has an amazing voice.
I felt all of Apple's pain as she tried to make a place for herself in her middle school. I also felt a lot of happiness when I saw her deciding to stop letting the crowd set her value.
Middle graders - misfits or not - will see a lot they recognize in Apple's story.
"My name is Analyn Yengko," said the girl in the mirror.I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.
I pulled up my hair into a ponytail like Gretchen's.
Analyn Yengko: popular and funny. Analyn Yengko: the prettiest girl in school. Analyn Yengko: lots of friends and boyfriends. Analyn Yengko: does not eat dogs for dinner.
"Good-bye, Apple," I said. "Hello, Analyn."
But what was the point of a new name when everyone knows who you really are?
I was Apple Yengko: none of the above. And everyone knew it, including me.