The folly of youth


Richard Milward <em>Faber & Faber, 208pp, £9.99</em>

ISBN 0571232825

If, as happened to one unfortunate couple, your darling little daughter were to advertise her house party on the internet to scores of hedonism-crazed adolescents, the tearaways who inhabit Richard Milward’s Apples are just the kind of people you’d dread turning up.

Eve has barely shaken off the pre-teen puppy fat, yet she is already immersed in a world of under-age sex, drugs, cheap booze and bunking off school. She is watched in awe from afar by her classmate Adam, an obsessive-compulsive loner whose favourite pastimes are listening to Beatles records and stealing his dad’s porn stash. Against this backdrop of over-indulgence, Eve struggles to cope with her mum’s cancer, while Adam tries hard to win Eve’s love.

So far, so zeitgeisty. The story, told from the kids’ alternating perspectives, hints at the better moments of Irvine Welsh’s fiction, while the faux-naive narration attempts to rival The Catcher in the Rye. But the one-liners teeter precariously between funny and ridiculous. For example: “All I could think about was Pablo Picasso – everything about her boyfriend was dead square and cubist.” What’s more, some awkward plotting leads to a needlessly enigmatic conclusion. Is Eve pregnant? Isn’t she? Trouble is, by this time will you even care?

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 14 May 2007 issue of the New Statesman, What now?