For grades 9-12. Christina Meldrum’s book Madapple, is a relatively rare breed in YA literature: It’s literary, entertaining and thought-provoking.
It came out in 2008. It's been widely reviewed, and given the recognition it deserves: It was a PEN USA Literary Award Finalist; a William C. Morris Award Finalist; an ALA Best Book; a Booklist Editors’ Choice; a Kirkus Best Book, as well as others.
By mentioning it here, I only hope to show my deep respect and appreciation of Ms. Meldrum’s startlingly unique contribution YA literature, and to pass the word to people who may not have heard of this book, though it's now four years old.
Thematically, it explores something seldom touched upon in YA literature: religion and mythology. It is deep and disturbing, but an ultimately satisfying achievement in literature.
It’s the story of Aslaug, who lives completely isolated with her mother, Maren, a naturalist who claims Aslaug was a virgin birth. When Maren dies, Aslaug travels a few miles to find her aunt Sara, a Charismatic minister, and Aslaug’s cousins, Susanne and Rune. Aslaug hopes to find out the identity of her father, although her cousins, seeped in their mother Sara's cult religion, believe she might actually be the product of a virgin birth.
Things get complicated when Aslaug finds herself pregnant and doesn’t remember ever being with a boy.
They get even more complicated when she is tried for arson and murder.
It’s the brilliant use of language, as well as the religious mysteries, that makes this story so fascinating. Add to it that much of the suspense is built, and mystery revealed, through trial transcripts. The story is told through these two narratives: the front story through incredibly lush imagery, and the mystery through the more tersely written trial transcripts.
The book was muscularly intellectual, beautifully written and a page-turner, all at once. Hard to imagine something succeeding so well on all three levels, but it does. The book is a good choice for adults and for discerning Young Adult readers.