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Summary: Apple Yegko likes lists. She keeps IF lists - three Interesting Facts about the people in her life. Her favorite list is her playlist of Beatles songs she copied from a cassette of her dad's. She can't share it with her Mom, who shuts her down when she tries to talk about her dad's death. She can't share the list from school, either. Apple is on the Dog Log (self IF #1), an unwritten list of the so-called ugliest girls in school. Apple and her Mom came to the US from the Philippines for a fresh start. Her classmates think she's too different (IF #2), and her mom tells her she's "too American." Why is life so hard and mom so embarrassing(IF #3)? With the help of two friends, Apple may find her IFs after all. This middle grade novel offers a realistic and thought-provoking look at life as a middle school teen.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and Up; 10 and Up
Interest Level: 10 to 15
Reading Level: 4.4
Adult Reader Reaction: I couldn't put it down! The story is vivid and pushes all your buttons, from empathy to outrage. The characters speak authentically, giving the reader the chance to ask themselves "is that me?" or "what would I do in that situation?" Apple's struggle with her ethnicity and identity come through poignantly, as well. Apple's mom was major disappointment. Her selfishness and disengagement from her daughter's life seemed stereotypical as a character, but inconsistent with the quality of characters in the story. I would also have liked to seen Mrs. Hill grab the loose thread of the Dog Log and other destructive lists going around the school.
Pros: Teens will see themselves and their friends in this vivid story of middle school life.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a book that offer insight for tweens and teens, reminding them that life is bigger than themselves. Don't assume this is a book just for girls. Apple and Evan are "every teens" to whom readers will connect.
Educational Themes: There are a number of themes that are natural conversation starters with young readers: prejudice and racism; family; friendship and relationships; grief, loss, and change; immigration, multicultural families, and transition; and pursuing your dream.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.