Contemporary YA Reviews #3 : The Protected by Claire Zorn & Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossnan

October 20, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 2 stars, 5 stars, Books, Reviews

Contemporary YA Reviews #3 : The Protected by Claire Zorn & Apple and Rain by Sarah CrossnanThe Protected by Claire Zorn, Sarah Crossnan
on July 23, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository
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I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.

Hannah's world is in pieces and she doesn't need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn't have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn't afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl's struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

Why did it take me this long to pick up a Claire Zorn book? The Protected was so fantastic, I read it in one sitting.

The Protected covers really subject matter in a relatable manner that makes us not only emphasise with Hannah and the pain that she is going through, but really understand where she is coming from. Poor Hannah has always been bullied and picked on at school, simply for being her serious self and not caring about boys and fashion. But now that she’s lost her beautiful and popular sister, who was always mean to her anyway, the bullying has stopped. She’s never had an easier time.

Through her accounts to the guidance counsellor, the first person she’s opened up about the accident to, we see how lonely and tormented she felt during her first years of high school. My heart broke for Hannah, as she was constantly bullied and harassed by her peers and alienated by her sister. These past accounts are interchanged with the peace of today’s time, with Hannah slowly overcoming her pain and coming to terms with the trauma.

If I could change one thing, just one, what would I change?

That’s the question that keeps me awake at night. I can’t even be honest with myself. The answer should be so obvious.

What kind of person does that make me? 

Despite all of the torment, grief, and guilt Hannah was going through, I really admired her strength of character. She just took everything in stride and never really let it wear her down, even during the toughest times. Hannah delivered a really tough exterior, and even though she let the tears flow behind closed doors, she was really just a misunderstood target. It just goes to show if you get to know people, you’ll find out that they are really lovely people, and Hannah was strong, smart and sharp and anyone would have been lucky to have her as a friend. Regardless of what anyone said or did to her.

Having siblings of my own, I can really appreciate books that really depict realistic sibling relationships, from the happy times to the sad. The Protected highlighted this really well, by showing us two sisters that were polar opposites to one another. While Hannah was the serious, studious one, Katie was the life of the party who was into boys, fashion and parties. The two sisters constantly thought, misunderstood each other, and held grudges, but at the end of the day they still loved each other. I wanted to shout at Katie and tell her to stick up for her sister, but at the end of the day, you can’t choose your siblings, and sometimes they are the meanest.

There would be no end to this. No end. And my knees gave way beneath me and I let myself fold down onto the ground. And if I closed my eyes, curled into a ball, didn’t move, didn’t speak, I wasn’t there at all. 

The appearance of Josh, a potential love interest was actually really sweet. He made Hannah feel like it was okay to be herself, that not everyone thinks she’s awful, and finally, to find hope and courage in herself.

I’m proud to say that The Protected is an YA book set in Australia, amongst the Blue Mountains. From the year levels, to the school, and the slang, it was really reminiscent of school in my country and I loved it.

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The Protected is a magnificent account of a girl going through the trauma of bullying and dealing with the death of her sister. It’s raw, heart breaking and emotional, and has a really uplifting message to always stay true to yourself and not to bottle all the pain within. This was a really strong contemporary that dealt with the difficult topics and made it relatable and compelling at the same time. It makes me proud of high caliber Aussie YA that everyone can enjoy.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Thank you UQP for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Apple & Rain by Sarah Crossnan Review: Doing English HomeworkApple and Rain by Sarah Crossnan
Published by Bloomsbury Australia on September 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

When Apple’s mother returns after eleven years of absence, Apple feels whole again. She will have an answer to her burning question – why did you go? And she will have someone who understands what it means to be a teenager – unlike Nana. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother’s homecoming is bitter sweet, and Apple wonders who is really looking after whom. It’s only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is, that she begins to see things as they really are.

Like a brilliant hybrid of Cathy Cassidy and Jacqueline Wilson, Sarah Crossan entices you into her world, then tells a moving, perceptive and beautifully crafted story which has the power to make you laugh and cry.

This is the first YA book that has literally taken me back to school – and not in a good way.

Reading Apple & Rain feels like you’re back in English class again. From the class discussions, to the method of teaching, to their homework and what Apple writes as drafts, it’s all there. Yes I enjoyed the English subject back in the day – but I don’t want to relive it, much less read about it and in this much detail. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for current high school students.

Aside from the long verses of poems and drafts of English homework, I actually felt like the writing was quite simplistic and young. The subject matter is also quite disturbing, about a terrible parent who abandons her child for an acting career, and then returns and takes advantage of her need for approval. I appreciated the focus on a parent’s behaviour in a genre filled with absent parents, but Apple’s mother was a sorry excuse for one. Abandonment, irresponsible behaviour, expecting your child to skip school and be a babysitter/maid and letting them drink, it’s all here.

 The truth is I have no idea where Mum is right now or what she’s doing. The only acting part she definitely has is a small role in a play and that doesn’t start until next week. And then I realise she has no idea where we are or what we’re doing either. Would she care if she knew we’d spent the afternoon gambling on fruit machines? 

The other sad and disturbing part of Apple & Rain was about Rain’s psychological issues and how she treats a baby doll like a real person. She carries Jenny around and feeds her, talks to her like a real child, and you could pretty much see affects of abandonment on Rain at 10 years old. Other from that, there’s also bullying and how Apple deals with it at school. Is there anything to be happy about in this book?

Well, there is Del, but the only thing memorable about him is how he spies on his neighbours with his binoculars, and how he helps Apple out especially with Rain. It was cute, but it wasn’t enough to detract from the rest of the horrible things in the story. Apple’s Nanna is probably the nicest character in the book who really cares for her enough – and I hated seeing her being cast aside.

Rain looks up then quickly gets back to cutting out pictures. But the brief, sad glance is unmistakable: it’s the look of a daughter desperate for her mum to love her the best.

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Yes this was a sad and emotionally draining book, but I wish there was a satisfactory conclusion to it or a lesson behind it all. It seemed like everything was sad, serious and dreary, and there wasn’t enough light at the end of the tunnel for me. I don’t always need a happy ending, but I need a story to be told for a reason. And the reason here, seemed to be to showcase Mr Gaydon’s wonderful English lessons.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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40 responses to “Contemporary YA Reviews #3 : The Protected by Claire Zorn & Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossnan

  1. Both these stories sound so incredibly emotional and sound as if they deal with some really important everyday issues. I've heard so many glowing reviews for Apple and Rain that I won't lie in saying that I'm a bit sad that you didn't like it as much as everyone else seemed to have. Anyhow, definitely going to give both of these a try! Thanks for sharing and, as always, FANTASTIC review! <3
    Zoe @ The Infinite T recently posted…Trial by FireMy Profile

  2. I've always wanted to read The Protected! It seems so complex and deep, full of issues that will tackle what we human beings have faced in our lives once or twice. Definitely will keep an eye on this. Apple and Rain sounds like a headache to me. I enjoyed my English classes when I still needed them but I definitely don't want to go thorugh all those all over again either!
    Faye recently posted…[BLOG TOUR] ARC REVIEW: Loop by Karen AkinsMy Profile

    • Oh it was so fantastic Faye, I just loved how relatable and heart-wrenching it was from a wonderful protagonist. Lots of others loved A&R, it's unfortunate it wasn't for me, but oh well. I don't need another English lesson!

  3. I love Clare Zorn, she's such a brilliant Aussie author. She's got that knack for turning a fictional story into something incredibly realistic and her character depth and development is among the best I've read. I loved The Protected too, but loved A Sky So Heavy just a touch more.

    I adored Apple and Rain, but completely agree about the lack of message throughout the storyline that could only be seen as forgiveness and the importance of family. Which is all well and good until you have a neglectful mother. My hear broke for Rain and their Nanna. What poor Rain went through really hit me hard and I was incredibly depressed and emotional after finishing that one. Couldn't agree more, it needed a happy and conclusive ending, especially with so much heartache.

    Really enjoying the double reviews, brilliant <3
    Kelly recently posted…Mini Review: This Night So Dark by Amie KaufmanMy Profile

    • Oh I know, as soon as I read a few chapters I was so totally surprised by how wonderful and amazing her writing was. It was just so deep. I will have to read The Sky so Heavy soon! Glad to hear you loved A&R, but yeah, the experience was rather uncomfortable for me. I just hate unresolved emotion when there's no real point to it.

  4. Interesting! Based on titles alone, I would have thought I'd be more inclined to read Apple & Rain over The Protected which somewhat sounds like a sci-fi title to me. Thanks to your lovely review, shall try Claire Zorn. Maybe when I'm in the mood for something slightly depressing though
    buona recently posted…The Prodigal Blogger’s #Giveaway!My Profile

    • Oh yes, I had to think hard about why it was called The Protected, and I think I got it, but I'm still not sure! Yeah, both of them are quite emotional and depressing with heavy themes. But I think Protected was better than A&R.

  5. Oh wow, I love the sound of The Protected — especially the first paragraph of the blurb. I don't know… it just really stood out to me for some reason, maybe because I can already tell how emotional it's going to be just through that alone. So I'm really glad that you found it so good, Jeann! And I have a soft spot for characters you can admire. It's one thing to love a character, but it's something else entirely to respect them, you know? So Hannah sounds like someone I'll really connect and feel for, which is always a good thing. Definitely going to put this on my to-read list!

    I really like the cover for Apple & Rain but guh, it's such a disappointment it wasn't all that great in the end. I've only read one book by Sarah Crossan — Breathe — and I didn't like it that much either. (I seemed to be the black sheep there, though; loads of other people enjoyed it a lot.) Haha, I love the English language… just as long as I'm not studying it. xP This book sounds like a freaking text book! I like that the author is dealing with a difficult topic here, but it doesn't sound like it was very well done.

    Hm, I don't think I've ever come across a story where the bad overpowered the good, so in that sense I'm kind of curious about Apple & Rain. Especially her interactions with the baby doll. That sounds creepy. O_O But anyway, so sorry this one didn't work out for you.

    Lovely reviews, hon!
    Megan recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: New Series To StartMy Profile

    • It was definitely a really emotional read with a strong character at it's heart, and I definitely got really attached to the character. So glad to hear you love the sound of it! Oh yeah, I was disappointed with A&R too. So many people seemed to love it, but I was definitely the black sheep as well, so I can definitely relate to your experience of reading Breathe lol. Oh yeah, so much ENglish lesson that I didn't want to experience.

      Oh my gosh, that baby doll. If you're curious, it might be worth checking out? Thanks Megan!

  6. Thanks Carmel, I'm really glad Aussie YA is a force to be reckoned with, and not just because of the national pride lol! Yeah, Apple & Rain ended on a really weird note, and it definitely wasn't for me either. Thanks!

  7. Ohhhh The Protected.

    Okay but . . . her sister was mean to her? WHY? I hate that. SIBLINGS BE KIND TO EACH OTHER. Also bullying books make me cry 🙁 AM I GOING TO CRY IF I READ THIS, JEANN?

  8. Reading a book in one sitting is a sure indication of just how good it is! I can't wait to read The Protected and have seen other really positive reviews for it as well. I love books set in Australia just because it gives that little bit of familiarity and more ability to connect to the setting at least, so I'm really looking forward to this one. Fantastic review Jeann 🙂
    Eugenia @ Genie In A recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Need to StartMy Profile

    • Oh I know, the writing is just beautiful and done so well, I loved the Blue Mountains setting and the slang that they used too. Thank you Genie, I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it!

  9. I NEED THE PROTECTED IN MY LIFE, seriously. But I'm sorry to hear about Apple and Rain, it was actually one of the books that I've been wanting to read, so maybe I'll still try it. But STILL, THE PROTECTED. Gah I need that I want to read it so bad! I'm glad you loved it
    Valerie recently posted…Review: I Am The MessengerMy Profile

  10. Zorn's book does sound like it's imperative you read it. The theme is very relevant and has a moral, I can tell. I love books with themes like this, I can relate very well not because I was a victim or something like that, it's just the emotions of the teens are so powerful I can relate to them on a certain level.
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…Loved It: Surrender by June GrayMy Profile

  11. Wow, the protected sounds great. I never got it when siblings actually pick on their siblings at school. My brother annoyed the hell out of me and I wouldn't have hung out with him, but I actually did threaten 2 guys who gave him crap. It's just weird to me.
    Christy recently posted…Bird Box by Josh MalermanMy Profile

  12. I'm happy that Sarah Crossnan managed to make your Aussie blood sing with The Protected! Some of those elements would have probably been lost on me, so it's always good to get an insider's perspective. Unlike you, I pretty much ALWAYS need a HEA, so I don't think that Apple and Rain is for me. Nice reviews!
    Carmel @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Tour Stop, Giveaways and Early Audiobook Review: Seventh Grave and No Body by Darynda Jones — Please VOTE!My Profile

  13. I feel like Zorn is a must read! I mean, the Blue Mountains! That's so rare. I love a strong protagonist so perhaps I'll have to find some time for this one.

    Apple and Rain sounds like something I will have to definitely AVOID. Wow. English class? Count me out. I like learning but not when I'm reading something for enjoyment LOL I've just escaped high school. I have no desire to come back 😛

    Fantastic reviews, Jeann! <3 x
    Jess @My Reading Dre recently posted…Where Art Thou, Moral? She Asked the Sea of Young Adult Tales.My Profile

    • I know, I loved her book and writing and I will definitely have to track down The Sky So Heavy now! Oh I know, Apple & Rain was so disappointing for me, I seem to be a black sheep again. So much English class, and homework, and teaching methods and teacher. No thanks for me! Thank you Jess!

  14. Aha, this is the second blog post I've read today that has recommended Claire Zorn… I think the blogosphere is trying tot tell me something? 😉 I will definitely have to give her books a chance, at least — I mean, how can I not?! I love the fact that from what I've seen of them, both this one and The Sky So Heavy is set in Australia which can be fairly uncommon these days. Apple and Rain, on the other hand, I am not so certain about. I know that I'll probably end up reading it, though at the moment seems a little to dreary for me!
    Kara @ Diary of a Te recently posted…Mini Reviews (1) — Breaking Point by Kristen Simmons & The Crown of Embers by Rae CarsonMy Profile

    • I think we definitely are Kara, you should listen to fate 😀 her writing is really amazing and I just love how it's set so close to home, and her books are excellent too. Yeah, Apple & rain was definitely heart wrenching, but I wanted something good to come of it!

  15. I really loved both of these books – The Protected more so than Apple and Rain, though. I loved that The Protected was so real, and set really close to me as well! (exciting!!)

    As for Apple and Rain…gosh, I WISH we got to do those sorts of assignments. Anything other than writing six practice essays before every exam. *shudders* But yeah, it was quite sad…except for Del. It made me cry. But I guess sometimes you need a sad book? Or I do, anyway. Maybe I'm just weird that way…
    Emily @ The Loony Te recently posted…2nd Blogoversary and International Giveaway!My Profile

    • Glad to hear you liked both of them, The Protected was a stand out for me! Oh Apple & Rain, those assignments did sound pretty amazing, but I didn't want so much detail about it =/ Yeah, it is a sad book, but it kind of spirals out of control really. At least you got your emotions out!

  16. OH WE ARE NEARLY REVIEW TWINS. Only mine is The Sky So Heavy today. XD Eeep. I love Claire Zorn. I loved The Protected, though it totally made my soul ache. Ahhh…I loved the friendship and how like we got to piece the REAL story together backwards. I really felt so sad for Hannah. The bullying was absolutely awful. 😐

    I liked Apple & Rain but I still have mixed feelings about the ending. Like…it seemed the entire message of the book was "Just keep trusting people even if they're cruel to you!" which isn't really….healthy. I felt really sad for the grandma. REALLY sad. Del was a bit of a homeschooler stereotype at first. -_- But I still loved him!
    Cait @ Notebook Sist recently posted…I have an obessesion with the End of the World || Also about The Sky So Heavy by Claire ZornMy Profile

    • That works for me Cait, I'll have to read your review after this! Oh, the bullying was really terrible wasn't it? poor Hannah. Yeah, Apple & Rain's non meaningful ending kind of did my head in. The poor grandma did nothing to deserve both her daughter & grand daughter deserting her, and it all sort of spiraled out of control for a bit there. Del was alright, probably the best character out of the rest in the book.