Review: Ivory Apples
At this point in my “reading career” it is often somewhat easy to look at a book cover, read the first couple pages, and then determine whether a particular book is going to be “my type”. This time I didn’t even have to read any pages. Just the cover alone gave me a pretty good idea that this book wasn’t exactly going to land in my wheelhouse. And that’s exactly why I decided to read it. This is me trying to branch out. Although, truth be told, I’m branching out within the context of the books that get sent to us by publishers/editors/etc. Still, you never know what you’re going to find when it comes to reading a new author. May just end up reading a book that was nothing short of fantabulous.
Spoiler alert: this one wasn’t.
IVORY APPLES (Amazon) is a book about the dark side of book fans that tries to inject a bit of whimsy and fun but ends up being pretty depressing. Ivy and her sisters have a great aunt that wrote a book called “Ivory Apples”. It’s a book that has been adored by the masses, sold enough copies to keep Aunt Maeve rolling in the dough, and become popular enough that Maeve has had to completely remove herself from the public space. Now she lives in a cottage in the Oregonian forest, and Ivy, her father, and her sisters visit her every now and again. They don’t understand completely why they have to call her “Aunt Maeve” instead of her real name: Adela Madden. But they are about to find out in a very direct way.
Ivy is the oldest of four girls and the POV of the story. During a visit to see Aunt Maeve early on in the book, Ivy takes a stroll into the woods around Aunt Maeve’s home and comes upon a clearing that is full of all sorts of fanciful creatures. One of them, a sprite, takes a particular liking to her and decides to take a dive… right into her body. When they get home, they return to their lives (because nothing much happens with regard to the sprite for quite some time), and shortly make the acquaintance of Kate Burden whilst at the park one day. She’s friendly and personable and soon Ivy’s sisters are inviting Ms. Burden to dinner, and Ivy absolutely hates it. She doesn’t trust this woman that has so suddenly infiltrated their family, and Ivy soon finds out just how horrible of a person Ms. Burden is.
There is a lightness and wispy quality to the writing and the storytelling that might easily enable one to jump into and immediately start enjoying it. It carries you along and introduces these concepts, these people, these tasty tidbits of detail and then continues on its merry way. After a while though, it becomes apparent that this is going to be the tone of the entire book, and honestly it became a bit of a chore at that point as I realized that so many aspects of the story just weren’t going to receive the attention that I thought they rightly deserved.
The sprite for instance. Can you imagine what it might feel like, or be like, to have a fanciful, frolicking, mythological beastie take up residence in your body? I thought so. Having a story start out with just such an occurrence gave me hope, and then nothing happened with him, and more nothing, as Ivy goes to school and starts to deal with Ms. Burden, and the story continues on its way. Not to say that the sprite never comes into play. He does, in fact. It just takes so dreadfully long that I’d nearly forgotten he was hiding there within Ivy for all that time.
On the whole, the characters are pretty simplistic, and their treatment of relationships pretty surface level as well. Ivy calls her father “Philip, and interacts with him so very little, and when an important part in the story for him comes along, there was a decided lack of feeling evinced by Ivy. This man is her father, who obviously loves her, and instead he is neatly glossed over. And also there comes a time in the story, near the middle, when Ivy decides to leave her sisters behind with Ms. Burden. She just up and jumps out a window. Left me completely confused. There was so much potential here for the child-vs-adult conflict, for the older sister taking charge and taking care of her younger siblings. For mythology in the real world jumping into your body. For the terror of dealing with a member of the public that is so obsessed with a single idea that they are willing to do anything — anything — to get what they want.
Mild mythology and a persistent stalker-fan ends up not paying out much in story dividend. IVORY APPLES is largely a study in story potential squandered.
Really, what this felt like was that the author had an idea for a story with a core that was darker than she was willing, or perhaps able, to write. This is the first book I’ve ever read from this author. So, I don’t know what kind of other stories she’s written, or what she may or may not be good at writing. This one just didn’t work though. There was too much in it that wasn’t handled well and more that wasn’t handled at all, and the ending left me a little confused and a little happy that it was over. Which is never a good sign, yeah?
So, decently well-told, but lacking too many important aspects of storytelling for me to suggest others read it.
- Recommended Age: 13+
- Language: Two F-word. Really? In this story? Just... ugh.
- Violence: A person dies off stage
- Sex: Several references