I asked to see this book for teens because the cover really appealed to me, I have a thing for apple tarts and there’s been a buzz about it and I wanted to know why. The blurb on the back mentions friendship and a boy going missing, but what I found inside was much more than that. This book is about miscommunication and people with agendas. It is also about bullying and depression and suicide. It doesn’t just look at that from a teenagers’ perspective, that of Oscar, but from grown ups as well. Adults can hurt too you know. And this is shown through Barney, a sad widower who feels that there is nothing left for him in this life. I ended up reading the book in just two sittings. The characters are vivid and move you – even though you never really get a sense of what they look like, particularly Oscar. Depression and especially suicide is treated realistically and with maturity: no magic fix is promised for any of the problems – and it certainly doesn’t suggest that an apple tart will sort people out. It’s a lovely part of the story though; the apple tarts that Oscar makes with such genuine humanity. I’ve always thought that you can feel someone’s love in their cooking – what makes these apple tarts special is that they are offered with love and warmth and kindness to people that Oscar has never met, as well as his nearest and dearest. It is a great gesture. And I think that if someone did make an apple tart for someone in need the way that Oscar does then you would feel that in every bite. It would be like feeling some magical had happened. What is so sad is that Oscar unwittingly gets bullied and loses all perspective of happiness – as can happen to so many teenagers. I can’t tell how much I hate Paloma for what she does to him. And without knowing why she did it, I can’t qualify my hatred with compassion or concern for her. She is a bully of the worst kind – one that does so by stealth, with a motivation to destroy someone only because they rejected her because they were in love. Not from cruelty but from genuine feelings. She didn’t get the answer she expected or wanted and because of her own insecurities she metes out a punishment for it. There’s also a love story in this, and because of a frustrating lack of communication, and then deliberate miscommunication, the lovers get together much later than they would otherwise have done. Oh my goodness it is heartbreaking – though obviously it is integral to the plot for this star-crossed disaster to take place. It still hurts to read about it though. Paloma doesn’t get her comeuppance you know. Not at all. And as she is a total bitch I am most annoyed about that. But although the circumstances are painful broken people get healed along the way: Oscar and Meg’s hurt ebbs away when they end up with each other, Barney finds a purpose in life again, and so does Oscar’s dad who is also a widower. Stevie, Oscar’s younger brother remains his wonderful self throughout the book. He’s disabled and in a wheelchair but as a person is entirely whole – and his love for and belief in his brother are what carries the story. I have a lot of love for Stevie. I don’t often feel this passionate about characters. I last felt this frustrated and angry and sad when I read Wonder by R J Palacio. The Apple Tart Of Hope feels like a mash up between Wonder and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – the characters, the real situation, the beauty, I felt all of that. Apple tarts are things that take a bit of time. You can’t just whip one up – you have to be focussed and committed to spending the time making one. Making an apple tart is much more complicated than making a cake. There are lots of processes involved, moments where things can go wrong, and you have to take your time over them. Apple Tart Days are days when you have energy and creativity and love at your disposal to get in that kitchen and create a beautiful, melt-in-the-mouth dish that will fill your house with the comfort of cinnamon and sweet apple and warmth and joy. When you do have days like that I suggest you make not one pie, but two. So on those days when that energy has left you – the darker days – then you can take a slice out of the freezer and know that you were the marvellous person who made that slice, and that you are very much loved. And that at some point in the future, you will have an Apple Tart Day again. A powerful read – and an uplifting one too.