Apples by Richard Milward
Apples is a tragic, troubling and weird read — but not a bad one either. The origin-ally named Adam and Eve move in different circles at school. Adam is an awkward, unpopular kid, uneducated about his changing body and clueless about girls. Eve is self-aware, beautiful and popular, spending her time drinking, taking drugs and sleeping around. The narrative is split between Adam and Eve, with interjections from other characters, a butterfly and a lamp post.
There is a lot in this book, by which I mean there are a lot of concurrent stories intersecting. There’s violent and sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, terminal illness, OCD, drug abuse, addiction, petty crime, depression and manslaughter to name a few, but Milward somehow manages to make all of these take a backseat because really this book is about an awkward kid fancying a girl who is way out of his league.
This book is undeniably coming-of-age but not really in a bildungsroman sense; the characters progress and change but they don't grow up or learn any significant mind-altering lessons about themselves and I'm glad because that isn't the context in which this book works. The language and content is offensive, the action is often repulsive but the glossed way that the narrative reports but doesn’t condemn allows for the story of these characters to be told — you don't have to like it, I think you're encouraged not to.
Best bits: Consistent references to popular culture, particularly fashion and the snobbery that comes with it. Pink toilet roll, gelled hair and Fila are essential to this book.
Worst bits: The chapter that is entirely backwards. Although I appreciated the attempt at ‘form’ it quickly became boring to decipher yreve drow and, I'll admit, I skipped it.
Not for the faint hearted - older teens, knowledge of late 90s early 00s pop-culture useful but not essential.
Keywords: grim up north, poverty, alco-pop, donnay, fila.
Buy the book from the Faber & Faber website here.