Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Taste Of Apple by James Laidler

Genre: YA Contemporary
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 328
Book Source: Courtesy of Author

Synopsis: Pedro Jones is lost. Abandoned by his father and forced into commission housing with his Filipino immigrant mother, the future seems bleak.

But when Pedro meets the 'mad' street busker, Johnny Lazzaro, and gets involved with the East Timor freedom movement, life takes an unexpected detour through the uncharted backblocks of the human heart.

I have to confess I said yes to reviewing James's novel purely for the fact that I enjoy supporting Australian author's and I thought the book trailer was exceptional but my expectation of enjoying The Taste Of Apple was actually quite low. *embarrassed grin* I'm keen to try new things but I didn't think I'd like the verse style but this is one experience that echoes the addage "don't knock it till you've tried it."

We follow Pedro's journey from age 10 to 18, from a 2 parent home in the suburb of Heidelberg to the housing commission apartment block in Richmond with his Filipino mother. When Pedro is 'introduced' to Juan "Johnny" Lazzaro of Johnny says a lot of stuff fame, Pedro's world expands exponentially, and he learns the difference between being alive and staying alive.

Sister McKenzie, 5 year old Evie and Mr Santiago and his Question of the week and words of wisdom 

"Better you eat the apple, Pedro
than the apple eat at you."

 play an integral role in the novel and are wonderfully characterised.

Laidler's debut novel is my first experience with a novel in free verse and I was completely amazed at the depth of emotion and characterisation conveyed. The prose is powerful, beautiful, hard-hitting. The book is accompanied by a 13 track interactive cd with songs and spoken word that paint vivid pictures and takes the reading experience to another dimension.

You can almost feel the heat radiating from the asphalt, smell the rank odours of urine and beer, hear the drone of traffic; it's all so raw and intense and real.

It's 9'oclock at night
and looking past Mum
I see
the setting sun
through the lounge rooom window
as it coughs up
a molasses of murdered red
on the city's skyline ...

The red covers everything:
the buildings,
the sky,
the events of this night,
and the promise of tomorrow.

I stand there
fighting back tears,
watching the setting
summer sun

slowly bleed out

My son is in year 12, not much of a reader but I know he'd enjoy reading this, it would have made an excellent study piece covering the themes and issues of identity, belonging, racism and Australia's involvement (or lack of), during the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and the plight of the East Timorese after the Dili Massacre in 1991.

What a truly innovative & poignant story ... I'm richer for having read The Taste Of Apple.

 Want to know more about James Laidler? ... check out his website.


  1. I am glad you enjoyed this one even though you thought otherwise. It really does sound very good. I will keep this one in mind.

  2. Free verse is sadly not for me, but good that you enjoyed this one :D

  3. I have just finished this and thought it was a beautiful and heart felt story. Great review and I love the new look :)

  4. I love love love free verse and so glad that you've joined some of us crazies who do!!! Sounds like a great read to me.

  5. This book sounds so out of my comfort zone that I'm a little bit curious...

  6. This sounds as though it might transcend the 'YA' classification.


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