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Apple in the Middle

by Dawn Quigley

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892302,990 (4)1
"Apple Starkington turned her back on her Native American heritage the moment she was called a racial slur for someone of white and Indian descent, not that she really even knew how to be an Indian in the first place. Too bad the white world doesn't accept her either. And so begins her quirky habits to gain acceptance. Apple's name, chosen by her Indian mother on her deathbed, has a double meaning: treasured apple of my eye, but also the negative connotation a person who is red, or Indian, on the outside, but white on the inside. After her wealthy father gives her the boot one summer, Apple reluctantly agrees to visit her Native American relatives on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota for the first time. Apple learns to deal with the culture shock of Indian customs and the Native Michif language, while she tries to find a connection to her dead mother. She also has to deal with a vengeful Indian man who loved her mother in high school but now hates Apple because her mom married a white man. Bouncing in the middle of two cultures, Apple meets her Indian relatives, shatters Indian stereotypes, and learns what it means to find her place in a world divided by color." --… (more)
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Loved: the absolutely beautiful portrayal of a loving Native family on the reservation. All of the lessons on humor and about Turtle Mountain (and the several tribes) culture that Apple learns. The fact that this is an own voices book, and that it is an own voices book for tweens/middle school -- there are definitely not enough of those in the world!

Disliked: unfortunately, when I read, what appeals to me most is characters -- and I thought there were many extremely interesting and endearing characters in this story -- from gigantic and lovely cousin Junior to Apple's feisty grandfather, and her sweet and messy young cousin. Unfortunately, Apple herself is really irritating, and we spend the entire time in her head. There's something about the way her character thinks and speaks that is excessively convoluted? sarcastic? awkward? and after a while I just found it really tiring to read. I could swear this book is 400 pages, not 250. To me, that's a trademark of a debut author, and not a particularly bad one -- clearly Quigley is an accomplished nonfiction writer for adults, and I look forward to seeing what more experience as a writer for young people brings to her work.

As far as ratings go, my reviews are personal opinions/reactions about books so that I can remember how I felt about a book. I am not the intended audience, and I support this book in general, so I leave the stars off of it, in hopes that other people will decide for themselves.
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
More of a 3.5 stars.

A couple of weeks ago, Book Riot sent out an email titled "📚 Don't Sleep On These Great 2018 YA Reads." The titles on this list included real teen problems, grief, trauma and inclusive characters. The title that caught my eye was Apple in the Middle. I was intrigued and put myself on the hold list at the library. After I received my copy, I finished the book in one night. I fell in love with Apple, the characters and the setting, but had some major issues with the ending that knocked my review down a half star.

Plot- Apple Starkington is a teenage girl living in Minnetonka (a suburb of Minneapolis, for those not in the know) with her white father, stepmother and stepbrother. Ever since she was called a racial slur when she was a little kid, she has turned her back on her Native heritage. Her mother, dead minutes after Apple was born due to injuries from a car crash, named her. One summer, her father and stepmother take an extended trip. Her stepbrother goes to stay with his grandparents. Apple reluctantly goes to stay with her mother's family on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Apple spends the summer connecting with her large and friendly family, her Native heritage and learning more about how to be confident in herself.

What I loved- the Native characters and how their heritage is weaved into the story. Apple is a likable and flawed protagonist. Reading along with her (told in 1st person) as she learns about herself, her mother, her family and her heritage was wonderful and deeply rewarding. She starts off the book as a lonely, uncertain girl and becomes a confident, sociable woman. Some of her quirks, including talking in random accents and blurting out uncomfortable questions, are accepted by her family.

Her family in North Dakota is also a wonderful group. Her grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends are all fun characters, lovable and realistic.

The antagonists are also fleshed out well. An ex-friend of her mother's and his kids give Apple a hard time about her heritage by using the negative connotations connected to her name- "red" or Indian on the outside and white on the inside and in general, harassing her. The harassment was too painfully real, from both the ex-friend and the white person who calls her a racial slur at the beginning of the story that caused her to reject her heritage in the first place.

What I didn't like- The ending. Without giving too much away, the last 30 pages of the book were super out of the blue and took the story down a path I wasn't a fan of. It felt manipulative and I felt wasn't necessary for the story. The ending was so out of the blue that it took the story down a half star for me, which was disappointing. Others may not be as put off by the ending as me, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

The characters and heritage are enough to for me to recommend this book for anyone looking for more teen novels starring Native characters set in present day. I'm excited to see what Dawn Quigley does next! ( )
  rkcraig88 | Jul 15, 2019 |
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"Apple Starkington turned her back on her Native American heritage the moment she was called a racial slur for someone of white and Indian descent, not that she really even knew how to be an Indian in the first place. Too bad the white world doesn't accept her either. And so begins her quirky habits to gain acceptance. Apple's name, chosen by her Indian mother on her deathbed, has a double meaning: treasured apple of my eye, but also the negative connotation a person who is red, or Indian, on the outside, but white on the inside. After her wealthy father gives her the boot one summer, Apple reluctantly agrees to visit her Native American relatives on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota for the first time. Apple learns to deal with the culture shock of Indian customs and the Native Michif language, while she tries to find a connection to her dead mother. She also has to deal with a vengeful Indian man who loved her mother in high school but now hates Apple because her mom married a white man. Bouncing in the middle of two cultures, Apple meets her Indian relatives, shatters Indian stereotypes, and learns what it means to find her place in a world divided by color." --

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