A little while ago the lovely Emma from Never Judge A Book By Its Cover and I launched Let’s Talk YA. You can check out all of the books I’ve previously recommended, all of which are incredible UKYA books that I think need to be shouted about more.
Today, I’m discussing the absolutely entrancing All The Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle.
TW: Rape, sexual assault, child abuse, abusive parents, death, grief, homophobia, child/infant death, cruelty to animals, institutional abuse, abortion, suicide, the Magdalene laundries, miscarriages, pedophilia, arson
The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.
And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.
This book utterly blew me away.
I loved watching Deena’s journey to find herself and her own identity, as she comes out at the beginning of the book but grapples with her sexuality and self-acceptance throughout. The solid group of characters around her, without giving too much away, had such a solid bond and I really liked the exploration of found-family. I really liked the casual diversity of the group, their natural chemistry and particularly the slowly developed romantic relationship.
As I have come to expect from Fowley-Doyle, there were some brilliantly witchy elements to the story and the sense of an unreliable narrator and slightly fragmented narrative. This all added to the sense of ambiguity and mystery that gradually unfolded over the course of the story, as layer by layer the family history was revealed. Structurally, I enjoyed the buildup of Mandy’s letters alongside this ragtag road trip around Ireland.
Moïra has built on the stunningly raw and lyrical prose shown in her previous work and honed it into a weapon to fight against the system that oppresses women, people of colour and LGBT+ people. The book simmers with anger at the injustices marginalised people have faced across the years and still do today, sweeping you into a righteous rallying cry by the final page. It deals so much with the inherited rage and silence and stigma that comes with shared trauma, demanding that we confront it, or else be forever stuck in the past. There’s something so special about how she combines magical realism with stark truth, wrapping up this dark, hard-hitting story in almost soft, delicate prose.
All The Bad Apples is simply a brilliant book burning bright with incandescent anger that demands to be read.
Have you read All The Bad Apples? What did you think?
As always, please check out Emma’s blog for her recommendation and we will be talking on Twitter, so please get involved and use the hashtag #LetsTalkYA.