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All the Bad Apples

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The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. 'This will be really embarrassing,' I kept saying to my family, 'when she shows up at the door in a week or two.'

When Deena's wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears - presumed dead - her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It's just another bad thing to happen to Deena's family. Only Deena refuses to believe it's true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family's blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions - but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse's roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family's rotten past - or rip it apart forever.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published August 1, 2019

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About the author

Moïra Fowley-Doyle

6 books937 followers
Moïra Fowley is half-French, half-Irish and made of equal parts feminism, whimsy and Doc Martens. She lives in Dublin where she writes magic realism, reads tarot cards and raises witch babies.

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5 stars
1,381 (34%)
4 stars
1,563 (38%)
3 stars
795 (19%)
2 stars
239 (5%)
1 star
50 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 29 of 880 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,301 reviews43.9k followers
September 8, 2022
A BOOK about FAMILY CURSE,WITCHES, BANSHEES, GHOSTS washed with magical realism, mysterious historical journey to the family ancestors’ stories repeated itself like living in the same Groundhog Day, taken place IN IRELAND and lots of tasty, juicy apples give you cravings! What am I waiting for? GIVING WITHOUT THINKING MY 5 BILLION STARS!

My vocabulary was limited to express how I loved this book so much because this is more than a mythological, mystical, mysterious, gothic, folkloric adventure. This book is the best feminism manifesto I’ve read so far.

This is not about a specific family curse. It’s about a culture’s shameful beliefs, behaviors, acts against the women who had been punished, expelled, cast out, kicked out, locked out by ILLOGICAL, IGNORANT, RUTHLESS BRAINS for centuries! They’re banned as “BAD APPLES AND LEFT TO BE ROTTEN ON THE GROUND!”

It’s about the beautiful and innocent souls of women who had paid too much by enduring their unhappy, miserable, destroyed lives.
It’s about unplanned pregnancies! Only the women paid the price by being kept in shame, endured back-street abortions, sold their children in illegal adoptions. Some of the women’s babies had been taken away from them to be buried in unmarked graves.
So this book is about CHANGE THE PATTERN to prevent the history repeat itself over and over again!

It’s about to speak freely! It’s about to express yourself honestly! It’s about not to be afraid of being yourself and not to care what the society norms force you to do!

This starts with three sister’s story. Mandy, Rachel, Deena! The day Deena declared she was gay and her father forced her to take her words back, her sister Mandy warned her, she would be in danger of their family curse and she disappears with a letter says she’s going to find her daughter at the end of the world.

Deena starts her journey to find her sister but this journey ends with revealing harsh, dangerous, heart-wrenching secrets of their family. As long as Deena resumed her walk at the end of the world, she got closer to find her real self and honest truth about her own being!

I loved this heart throbbing, thrilling, magical, riveting, fast pacing, poetic, soul searching adventure. This is one of the surprising and amazing books of this year! It’s vulgar, raw, emotional ride! I enjoyed every second of it!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews10.7k followers
August 23, 2023

All the Bad Apples is a hard-hitting, enchanting YA-feminist tale. I was so enthralled by this story, I absolutely could not put it down once I started.

Deena begins to unravel the mysteries of her family tree whilst on a search to find her missing sister, Mandy, who others assume is dead.

Fowley-Doyle includes a lot of Deena's family lore in this story and I was totally into it. I wanted to know everything there was to know about the Rys family.

The author continues to seamlessly blend past and present together as the narrative unfolds. The reader takes a front seat as history continues to repeat itself.

Women and girls are stripped of their power and choice, made to live false lives. It was heart-wrenching and felt extremely genuine.

At the beginning of the novel, Deena, our teenage protagonist comes out to her family with a mixed reaction.

She is a student at a Catholic school and has been raised within a conservative household. She is struggling with her identity and being able to live her truth.

I thought this aspect of the story was so well done, as were all aspects really, but the feelings evoked as Deena questions whether or not she is a 'nice, normal girl', were just so powerful.

That's how the story kicks off and as far as gut-punching, hard-hitting topics, it never lets up.

I loved the format the author chose to slowly reveal the truth at the heart of this tale. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time to come.

I am not going to say anything else in regards to the plot because I think it would best serve the story, and your reading experience, to go into this with as little information as possible.

A story of family, identity, secrets, truth and power, I am still reeling by how much this story has impacted me. Truly stunning.

While this is a fully fictional story, the topics explored within were well researched by the author and are based on true events that happened throughout the course of Ireland's history.

As the author lives in Ireland and is Irish herself, that is where the story is focused, however the issues the girls and women faced are universal.

Please read this book. Please read this book. Please read this book and as always, this includes the Author's Note at the end. Read that too!!
Profile Image for Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd).
332 reviews7,305 followers
January 14, 2020
Unputdownable. This is full of inherited rage, inherited silence, inherited stigma, and so much more. It’s about a past that is only escapable if someone finally dares to speak it out loud. It’s a horrifying masterpiece that demands to look centuries of trauma in the face and scream about it or nothing will ever change. Essential, essential reading.

TW: Homophobia, internalized homophobia, historical homophobia, mentions and discussion of rape and incest
Profile Image for Korrina  (OwlCrate).
193 reviews4,554 followers
January 18, 2020
Well, that was quite a painful read and it definitely made me hug my son a bit tighter. :*( A really important story and look at recent history.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,471 reviews1,890 followers
August 29, 2019
This is what a curse does : It takes a truth and twists it. It punishes those who don't conform.

ALL THE BAD APPLES is, to quote the author, a story that "was, in part, fueled by rage." I don’t want to veer away from the specific history she's shed light on but for anyone who has looked around, confused and shocked and angry, about some of the abortion bills trying to be passed in the US? You’ll want to read this book. Because Ireland had been living that life up until 2018.

That's the problem with having a funeral for your sister without really knowing whether she's dead. Without a body in the coffin, how can you be sure she won't come back?

Overwhelmingly, this book is a very Fowley-Doyle story. If you've read her before, you'll know exactly what I mean : she infuses her twisty whimsy, her magical storyweaving, her mysterious realism, into a narrative that has deeper, darker, roots. In ALL THE BAD APPLES it's about women, it's about shame, it's about family.

"I can see the headlines now. Runaway Queer Kids Become Victims of Remote Cabin Chainsaw Killer, Surprising Absolutely No One."
"I'm not queer, sorry."
"Then chances are you'll be the only one left alive."

I won't be speaking much to the plot because half the journey is not knowing what's real and what's not. Half of this is about the history that came before the events of the moment. Some of it will challenge where you think the story is going. Most of it will probably break your heart. The rest will make you angry.

"I wonder — are all legends kind of warped? The scream of a banshee is supposed to foretell a death, but really it's a warning. They're supposed to be evil ghosts, but they only ever wanted to help. [..]"
"I bet if the banshees were men the myths wouldn't have gotten it wrong."

What you should know : it's queer, it's family-focused, it's about grief, being heard, belonging, owning up to who you really are, and is rife with secrets. And apples. Lots and lots of apples. Bad apples, nice and normal apples, all kinds.

Tell your story. Speak your truth. Shatter the silence.

I would definitely recommend reading the author's note when you finish this one. It was educational and even more heartbreaking. I was tempted to rant about the factual elements that make up the backbone of this story, that are woven in amongst the fiction and the fantasy, but. That rant doesn't belong to me. I'm not here to regurgitate or educate on something I know so little about. But.. read it. Read this book. And then go find THE SPELLBOOK OF THE LOST AND FOUND. And continue to enjoy the wonder and weird magic that is a Fowley-Doyle experience. You won't regret it.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for OonaReads.
561 reviews174 followers
July 29, 2020
This is my favorite book of the year, it has everything I love in a story.
Queer characters
A family curse
Secret family history
Found family
Road trip
Going after a person who has gone missing/is presumed dead
Feminist rage against patriarchy

I cannot think of a book that I will love as much as this one.
Also as a side note, Finn is the only man in this book who deserves rights.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews192 followers
May 31, 2019
All the Bad Apples has everything you should expect from a Moïra Fowley-Doyle novel: beautiful atmosphere, blurred lines between the magical and the ordinary, and queer characters. At the same time, it's so much darker and angrier than usual.

This felt like the bookish equivalent of a scream.
You might think this is a story about a lesbian who has a very traditional catholic father and who is grappling with the consequences of her older sister's disappearance and what might be a family curse, discovering her family's history in the process. It is, and yet it's not.
All the Bad Apples is a story about the crimes of the catholic church, a story about the women whose truths are still buried and untold, a story about Irish history from the point of view of those who are always erased. It's a story about how necessary the separation between church and state is, about how we shouldn't take our victories against bigotry and patriarchal systems for granted.

This book made me realize is that I'm kind of tired of reading about Americans' problems. I don't live in Ireland, but for various reasons, what they went through is much more similar to my country's problems. Reading about European countries from a modern European point of view is so refreshing, and I'm glad this book exists.
This also meant that for me this book was a lot more horrifying to read than usual. And even if you don't know what it means to deal with catholic fundamentalism, I recommend reading the content warnings at the end of this review.

So, why not a higher rating? Because - and this has happened with the other novel I've read by this author too - by the end of the book, I felt like I didn't know any of the characters.
Deena is a lesbian, her best friend is a bisexual and biracial black boy, she meets a girl who is also queer during this novel, and there's the beginning of what could be a romance. I always want to get invested in Fowley-Doyle's mostly-queer found families, but I never manage, and - mostly in the second half - the parts about history took over the book, so that the present storyline started to feel stagnant.
(It still surprised me, though. I would have never seen any of that coming.)

On the historical parts: I loved their message and the point they were making, they just weren't that interesting to read. The problem with multi-generational stories is that I often struggle to get invested in anything historical and with so many characters, but that's more on me that on the book.

I would recommend All the Bad Apples to all of those who enjoy Leslye Walton's novels and liked the inter-generational aspect of The Astonishing Color of After.

Content warnings for the present storyline: homophobia (challenged, and mostly at the beginning, but it's there right from the first chapter), frequent mentions of what is rumored to be a suicide, controlling parent, bullying
Trigger warnings for the parts about family history: incestuous rape (implied), rape of a minor (implied), institutionalization, physical, emotional and religious abuse (mostly told, not shown), one of the main characters' ancestors got burned alive for being gay ("a witch"; again, told not shown), and we're also told about forced pregnancies, abortion, mothers separated from their babies, death of a baby, suicide, a lot of misogyny and bigotry.
[I hope I haven't missed anything but there was a lot.]
Profile Image for J.A. Ironside.
Author 57 books328 followers
November 23, 2019
ARC provided via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

I fucking love this book. It's easily one of my favourite reads of 2019. All the Bad Apples follows Deena, who undertakes a quest to find her missing older sister when she vanishes on her seventeenth birthday - apparently in response to the Rys family curse. The curse falls on the 'bad apples' of the family. Those who cannot be 'nice, normal girls'. The ones who have sex outside of marriage or who desire other women or act in any other way outside the norm for their gender. Set in Ireland in 2012, against the backdrop of what is still a rigorously Catholic country (though things are gradually changing for the better - the repeal of the 8th amendment making it legal for women who need to to get abortions is a big step in the right direction.) The strictures and attitudes might seem farfetched for 2012, certainly for 2019. They're not. There are still plenty of people, both in Ireland and outside of it, and in the western world at large, who think like the more repressive and conservative characters in this book. I speak from experience having been raised Irish Roman Catholic - it's a special blend of fundamental religious indoctrination and superstition at it's worst. (At it's best, it resulted in me meeting some of the best, kindest and most tolerant people of my life - but honestly the way it was practiced when I was a child and teen, Catholicism was not calculated to bring out the best in its followers.)

This isn't just about religion. This is about a system that has been allowed to grow in a way that marginalises women, poc and LGBTQIAP+. It's not so much that's it's anyone's fault, it's that it's everyone's responsibility to try and improve matters; to question; to speak out. Moira Fowley Doyle does an amazing job, via the medium of the Rys family history, of tracing the origins of some of these attitudes. There's no judgment, despite the rage underlying parts of the book. (Fury I shared in fully, having come from this particular Irish background). There's a look at how the Great Famine shaped attitudes, how the English landholders mistreating Irish workers fostered a mindset more geared towards intolerance - when everyone you know is starving to death, it's very hard to find compassion for others' sufferings. From there, we follow the trail through a dark and damning history specifically backed up by the Catholic Church. If you haven't heard of Magdalene Laundries, the church sanctioned mother and baby homes, the Christian Brother orphanages, you will. Be aware that while it's not a gratuitous depiction, it pulls no punches. It was something I knew a lot about and it still had me incandescent with rage.

And yet for all that, this is a remarkably hopeful novel all about reclaiming the past - good stories, bad stories, hopeful and despairing stories, family stories but most of all women's stories - and then building a better future out of knowing the past. It had a certain amount of creepiness which I rather relished. And I enjoyed all the references to Irish history and mythology - it made me quite homesick at times.

Deena is a sympathetic character, flawed but adventurous. There's no moustache twirling villains here, but also no quarter given for anyone who goes on to perpetuate a cycle of oppression and abuse just because they've come from one themselves. I loved the friend group that formed around Deena, and her family dynamic fell into strange but true and utterly believable territory.

I've loved all the authors' books but this is the best one yet. Highly recommend.

TW: neglect, abuse, rape (off page), abortion, teen pregnancy, anti LGBT attitudes (always negatively portrayed) and institutional abuse/ infant death (off page)
Profile Image for Michelle.
653 reviews183 followers
December 10, 2020
At first I thought this book was a YA fantasy about a family of women that were under a curse. That if it was deemed by the rest of the family that they were bad apples that they would suffer this doomed fate. I didn't quite get what the specific details of that fate would be beyond visitation by banshees, broken bone combs, bodily scratches and the ghost of a bull. Was she going to die? Be tortured mercilessly? Be trapped in purgatory? I just wasn't sure. But as the book opens up with a teenaged girl Deena on the verge of her 17th birthday coming out to her sister we get a sense that whatever this fate is, it will befall her. Especially after her father walks in on her revelation. And certainly after both of her sisters reactions. They implore her to remain quiet about her sexuality and emphasize how important it is for her to appear to be a "good girl", a normal nice good girl.

I was kind of surprised that with this storyline that this book is set in 2012. But as the story goes on you learn more about Deena's family history and how the curse came about, you come to realize that bad apples include women who were deemed to be too pretty, women who spoke their mind, women who had boyfriends, women who were raped.

The afterword by Moira Fowley-Doyle gave me more insight into the crux of the book and why she why she chose to use these women to represent this time frame. In it she talks about the Magdalene houses in Ireland and how up until 1996 they operated without much oversight. Because there was no separation of church and state thousands of women were sent to these homes for anything construed as being deviant behavior. She explains how abortion was illegal until 2019 and punishable by 14 years in jail. How she was compelled by the death of Savita Halappanavar to tell this story. Halappanavar had suffered an incomplete miscarriage and was denied surgery to remove what remained in her womb. As the physician explained, her request went against Irish Catholic law. On October 28, 2012 Savita died from sepsis, one week after being admitted to the hospital.

Fowley - Doyle also talks about how two school boys discovered bodies that were buried in a mass grave near Tuam, County Galway. It was excused away at first as being from the famine. It turns out that more than likely these bones were the bones of children who were born at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home.

Research was conducted by Catherine Corless who pulled up the records of all of the children born into this home and found there were 796 children, babies whose bodies were unaccounted for. They were not buried in any of the local cemeteries. The Bon Secours Mother and Baby home was open from 1925 - 1961. Using this figure Corless estimated that one child died within those walls every two weeks. One baby every two weeks. 796 children unaccounted for.
Profile Image for Janna.
311 reviews297 followers
January 25, 2023
I loved reading "All the Bad Apples" so much! It was published in 2019 and I wish I had known about it sooner.

It's a wonderful, magical, gripping novel about Deena and a century-old curse that torments her family.

It takes place in Ireland and features chapters of her family's history through the ages in between Deena's present storyline, in which she's trying to find a fix for the curse. It was so fascinating (and sometimes scary) to learn more about Irish history, especially history that doesn't centre around cis men.

There are so many feminist issues (e.g. stigma, shame, abortion) this book addresses and I loved it for that.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was the queer representation. Deena is a lesbian (yes, the word lesbian is used), she has a sapphic love interest and a bi best friend.

Don't read this book for the romance though. There's some of it, but that's not the main focus. This book is about friendship and fears, about families, biological and chosen ones and about the terrifying things that happen(ed) to people (who are not cis men) in the past and present.

The writing style is lovely and the magical realism is well executed - there are even chapter titles (if that's a thing you're missing in a lot of current reads too)

Please pick it up if you're into paranormal feminist books!

bookish links: instagram / tiktok
Profile Image for Mariana.
392 reviews1,767 followers
November 12, 2020
Por un rato pensé que iba a ser un 5 estrellas porque amo el estilo de esta autora, pero la última parte del libro se me hizo larga e innecesaria.
Tiene un mensaje muy poderoso de aceptación y habla sobre asuntos que generan mucha tensión en Irlanda, como el descubrimiento de los bebés enterrados en una casa-hogar católica y, por supuesto, la lucha para tener acceso al aborto legal en un país con una tradición católica tan arraigada. Mi mantras de vida es leer todo lo que la autora publique, me gusta mucho su onda realismo mágico nostálgico.
Profile Image for Temi Panayotova-Kendeva.
369 reviews71 followers
January 6, 2020
Would have been interesting if it was a real ghost story. It is not about an actual supernatural curse, the plot is just plain basic and stupid and the same as the other books Doyke has written. She needs some more imagination and to stop writing this god awful predictable plots.
Do Not Waste your time with this!
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,221 reviews868 followers
August 4, 2019

disappointed @ how this book used the d-slur (and not in a good way) to refer to the mc before using the word lesbian and she never referred to herself as a lesbian like........please can u just have ur LESBIAN mc use the word lesbian once i beg

Rep: lesbian mc, biracial (black) bisexual side character, wlw li
Profile Image for Cortney -  The Bookworm Myrtle Beach.
861 reviews138 followers
November 30, 2021
Quick read that I started and finished on a slow Tuesday at the bookstore. At this point, I've read all of this author's books, but her two subsequent books didn't touch how great her first one was.

On the fence about whether I'll continue to read her or not. Just wasn't super impressed.
Profile Image for Stella ☆Paper Wings☆.
537 reviews46 followers
April 3, 2020
All the Bad Apples is an underrated masterpiece. The more time that passes since I read it, the more I begin to realize how genius it really is. I think it might end up in my top books of the year.

If you've read my reviews in the past, you probably noticed that I love me a subversive feminist book with magical realism incorporating real historical events to make a statement about generational trauma, the grieving process, the importance of storytelling, and the nature of oppression. Oddly specific as it is, that's pretty much my brand. Still, I think I can say fairly objectively that this is a brilliantly crafted, beautifully written, and powerfully produced story. As with every 5-star review, I don't even know how to begin to express the beauty of this book.

It's so subtle that I don't think I even realized how much I was enjoying it until I was at least halfway through. This is a book you'll want to devour, as events flow smoothly into one another and the interlocking plot threads make it impossible to put down. It alternates between the present day in which the main character searches for her missing sister, and the past in which we follow one family's convoluted history. I love this element because it feels like several separate stories all connected to create an impactful story that explains many of the character's personalities- and it is a very character-heavy book.

This is not an easy book to read; since it tackles so many difficult concepts, I think it has to delve deep and avoid sugarcoating anything. Part of the point of the book is to realize that sometimes we have to face the harsh realities of the past in order to understand them and grow from them. (However, that means this book comes with a lot of content warnings, which you can find at the end of the review.)

It's simultaneously intersectional and straightforward, somehow taking on society as a whole while also just talking about one family and eventually concluding at maybe we're all "bad apples." I did enjoy Fowley-Doyle's last book, The Spellbook of the Lost and Found and I still have to read her debut, The Accident Season , but it seems like she's grown so much as an author, and I can't wait to see what she writes next.

Content Warnings: rape, extreme homophobia, misogyny, abuse, miscarriage, implied incest, death of a child, abortion, parental neglect, bullying (all challenged)
Profile Image for Ellie.
578 reviews2,193 followers
March 4, 2020
ALL THE BAD APPLES is intense and sad and, at times, challenging. It is not an easy read. It sheds light on Ireland’s dark past and the atrocious treatment of women under Ireland’s religious ideology, even up to the modern day. It also encourages women today to stand up and speak out, breaking free of stigma and creating a better future. It, at once, is both a book full of magical fabulism and historical horrors.

Very much worth the read, though.

tw: rape (off-page), women being treated really shittily, mothers being forcibly separated from children, neglect/death of babies, abortion, homophobia, abuse

read as part of #fffebruary2020
Profile Image for Ana | The Phoenix Flight.
236 reviews159 followers
October 21, 2021
Peguei neste livro a pensar que ia estar a ler uma história jovem adulta sobre bruxas, uma maldição de família, descobrir as nossas raízes. E o que encontrei foi isso e muito mais.

Enquanto tenta descobrir mais sobre o que aconteceu à irmã, dada como morta, mas sem corpo que o prove, Deena vai fazer uma viagem ao passado da família, enquanto vai descobrindo a História da Irlanda. Uma Irlanda que existia até há muito pouco tempo. Muito, muito recente mesmo. Uma Irlanda extremamente fechada no seu catolicismo, na ideia do que é bom e mau, do que é aceitável e do que é um crime.

É um livro que revolta. Uma história que gostariamos de pensar que está no passado distante, quando as pessoas não tinham acesso a informação e não sabiam "mais e melhor". E no entanto, como diz a autora nas notas finais, há certas coisas que por lei só foram alteradas em 2019. E há um caminho bem longo para percorrer.

"(...) the past will only keep repeating itself as long as we're kept powerless by our silence."
Profile Image for Katie.dorny.
1,014 reviews530 followers
March 30, 2020
This blew me away and the authors note and acknowledgements hit me more than the novel did.

This book tells the story of the Rhys family who are reeling from the passing of their sister and whom Deena is reeling from her crap school and peers.

Please be warned that there is the mention of sexual assault in this book.

I don’t want to detail the plot as after going in myself knowing nothing and having no expectations, I loved this. It was dark, harrowing and incredibly moving all in one.

This is an important book that discusses a topic I have never read about before in ya fiction.
Profile Image for 여리고.
71 reviews217 followers
November 27, 2019
3.75 stars.

"There are things that hold you, and there are things that you hold."

This book has vague similarities with The Disappearances but as much as I loved the aforementioned title, All The Bad Apples did not make it through to my 'favorites' shelf.

There were strong issues depicted in the book that would be controversial to some. I, for one, had a slight dissent from certain outlooks the author wanted to convey in the story. But aside from those topics, this book is well-written as it is well-researched, raw, provocative and full of grit. It made me feel a lot of emotions, mostly anger I didn't know was proliferating inside my chest.

The only thing I didn't like about it is it was more info-dumping about family history and less actual occurences surrounding the main characters in the story. It is more like a motivating force, an eye-opener rather than an actual story to be more aware and responsive to certain issues circulating our world until today such as violence against women, child abuse, abortion and the essence of so-called feminism in the society. I understand how significant this book is and what it signifies to people, men and women alike but because of the ones I mentioned before, I realized I found this book tedious for my taste. Too long when it didn't need to be, dragged a bit much and as others would say, nothing really happened much in the book itself. The book is more like extracting history and adding a pile of trivial stuff like curses and ghosts and banshees and magical aura to make it look more interesting but sadly, it wasn't the case for me, hence the slightly low-ish rating.

On the positive note, I am fairly sure some others, if not more, would find this book more to their liking than I did.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,282 reviews80 followers
January 4, 2020
5 Stars for All The Bad Apples (audiobook) by Moïra Fowler-Doyle narrated by Marisa Calin and Elizabeth Sastre. I thought I was in for an interesting tale set in a beautiful place. The premise sounded great. I had no idea that this was a fictional tale set around such an important topic. The unsettling part of the book is that many of the subjects are historically true. The narration was superb. I could listen to the narrators read the phone book. Maybe the Dublin phone book. 🍀
Profile Image for Karima chermiti.
823 reviews157 followers
October 13, 2019

Trigger warning :

There are things in life you hold, and there are things that hold you.

This book flew under my radar for so long I don’t know how it was even possible; full of all the things I love and appreciate in books, All the Bad Apples is an all time favorite of mine and it will always be. Like a scream in the dead silence of night, it woken something in me and made breath like it was the first time ever. Powerful, touching and deeply moving; this book is a story that demands to be felt and lived and understood.

This is a story of generations of women being judged for who they are and cursed for daring to be different and rebellious only for the silence to shatter and for the truth to be learned ; be who you are and be proud of who you are and never let anyone make you feel otherwise.

If you are the branches of your family tree, what are the roots? Who are the worms burrowing in underneath? What land holds you up.

The book starts with a funeral; Mandy, Deena’s wild and troubled sister has died or at least that’s what everyone believes except Deena who still thinks that her sister is alive and well somewhere searching for a way to break the curse that follows the family women who dare be wild and different. When Deena starts receiving letters from her sister Mandy, she embarks on a journey to discover the history of her family and break the curse once and for all.

The thing that I loved about this book is the fact that it can’t be labeled into a genre; it can’t be defined by words and explanations. This book exists because it should and because it has something important and empowering to say and it said it in the most beautiful, weird and honest way possible.

There was a mystery to their relationship, a complicated dance of affection and resentment I didn’t understand.

Between the complexities of its characters, the intricacy of its plot and the beauty of the writing, All the Bad Apples have a lot to offer. Part historical fiction, part contemporary, part urban fantasy and mystery, this book is like different million pieces that shouldn’t fit and yet they do.

A story of sisterhood, of defying all the prejudices and judgments, a story of family whose history is filled with tragedy, injustice and cruelty. A tale of ghosts and heartbreak and pain but most important it’s the story about characters knowing who they are and facing with pride and dignity everything and everyone who will try to erase their identities.

I can’t express with words how beautiful and important this book is; all I can ask of you is to read it and feel it with all your heart and soul.

Cry. Rage. Speak out. Break the stigma. Break the curse.

Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,535 reviews234 followers
August 22, 2019
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Rhys women were cursed, and upon their 17th birthday, all the bad apples fell from the family tree.
“You’d know them a mile away. The ones who don’t look like the others, don’t act like the others. The ones who don’t conform, don’t follow the rules . . .The ones who dress differently, love differently, think differently.”

However, Mandy was determine to break the curse, and while tracing the family's history, she disappeared. They had a funeral, but Deena didn't believe her sister was dead, and when a letter, written in Mandy's hand arrived, Deena was determined to find her and bring her home.

This book was part mystery, part history, part family drama, and part coming of age. Fowley-Doyle had characters, who were struggling with their identities, while she also explored the dynamics at play in a very complicated family and the many factors that contributed to it. The star of this tale, though, was the Rhys family history, which included some of the most brutal injustices brought against women and children of Ireland.

Through fictional accounts, I learned about the oppression and abuse these women faced. The author approached all topics unflinchingly, from the murder of the lesbian lovers and the imprisonment of young unwed mothers in Magdalene Laundries to the abortion ban, which was only repealed last year. My heart ached for the Rhys women, but all of this was even more powerful and haunting, because I knew it was based on reality.

The delivery of the family history packed an even bigger punch, because Fowley-Doyle created an atmosphere with touches of magic, that just amplified the mood. She also did a great job of keeping me unbalanced, and I surprisingly enjoyed it. It all added to the tension that was building as Deena and her friends raced to "the end of the world" to find Mandy and get to the heart of this mystery.

It was a wild ride, which was horrifying at times, but ultimately gave way to some hope for the future by educating us about the past.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard.
1,146 reviews245 followers
August 29, 2019
TRIGGER WARNING: A grandfather drugs, rapes and impregnates his teenage granddaughter. It is not graphically described but it does occur

I tend to come out of every Moira Fowley-Doyle book angry but they're always just so damn good. This is a pro-choice and pro-access book. Let's just get that out there. If you're someone who goes full "even in rape, abortion shouldn't be given because it's a gift from God" person, this is not a damn book for you.

I remember a few years ago when all of the protests and anger about abortion access in Ireland happened. I cannot fucking believe there are countries LITERALLY USING THE ARGUMENTS OF THE 1800S TO TRY AND BRING BACK ABORTION BANS. It makes me want to pull my hair out. I cannot imagine thinking you have the right to tell a total stranger--under any circumatances--what they should do with their body and having to be a parent. Mind your own damn business!

Anyways, duel timelines were so good. I freaking loved how they slowly started tying together. It so perfectly showed how completely messed up governments with laws directly put there by religious institutions have these multi-generational effects that constantly oppress women, feminism, and access to healthcare. All of the issues brought up were actually big driving forces as to why I won't touch religious institutions with a ten foot poll. It's all hard to read but it's important.

I really enjoyed the contemporary timeline with the 3 sisters. Our main character is ownvoices lesbian (I mean it'd be weird not getting any queer rep from a book by Moira Fowley-Doyle). It really brought up this continued fight of separation of Church and religion from publicly funded entities such as schools as well as homophobia. I lived in this pretty wonderful bubble growing up where I had parents and grandparents who never cared what mine or my siblings orientation was. I always saw lots of support groups like GSA's and I just honestly lived in a very diverse geographic area (and a country that legalized same sex/equal marriage and abortion access before it was something I ever thought about) and wonderful time period before Donald Trump. Now I don't doubt that there was homophobia but it was most definitely not a publicly acceptable thing to be. It was quite eye opening to see in 2012 that people were still homophobic. This would've really surprised me maybe 5 years ago but I now live in a very white religious geographic area where I hear homophobic things said all the time. It's quite depressing so even though I am cis and straight, I could see all the homophobia in this novel happening in the real world.

The witchy paranormal elements were eery but also just seemed...normal somehow? Maybe I just think Ireland is some magical fairyland with lepricons or something.

On a positive note, the ending is a hopeful one. I think that was so important for the topic. That we be positive. That we fight for change. That we keep being loud and pushing and advocating for victims of sexual assaults, for feminism, for safe access to abortions, and to support for single and low income parents.

Rep: the main character is lesbian and her best (male) friend is bisexual
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sara Oliveira.
343 reviews512 followers
November 8, 2020
3.5 ⭐️

TW: homophobia, historical homophobia, rape, incest, abortion, child deaths, mothers being separated from their children, mentions of suicide, teenage pregnancy.

This book talks about a queer girl named Deena and her path to accepting herself, learning her family history and the ugly truths her country and church tried to hide all while trying to break the family curse.

So this book... finishing this book left me crying for all the women who suffered this kind of treatment not only in Ireland but everywhere around the world. While I did highly appreciate all the important talk on the treatment of women, homophobia and out of wedlock pregnancies - especially considering how only recently have some of these laws been changed (and I mean 2018 kind of recent...). I did have a hard time getting into the story and the characters, it is in my opinion even though it looks like a lot is happening, quite slow paced and very constant in it's energy level.

The last third of the book was definitely my favorite, with all of the hard hitting subjects and family conversations and acceptance. The magic vibe really wasn't there for me but that's fine. It does a great job of being an accessible YA story on important conversations and I think that's what matters here - it talks about the importance of not ignoring history and how people live with constant pressure to be someone they're not to hold of the ideals of others.

“This is what a curse does: It takes a truth and twists it. It punishes those who don’t conform. It sets the parameters of conformity so narrow that few can actually stick to them.”

The representation in this book is definitely present, we have several queer or gay women, one bisexual boy best friend and a full history of generations of women fighting to be their selves.

“You tell the story,” said Mandy slowly. “You tell your story and the story of your family. You speak your truth. You shatter the stigma. You hold your head up to the world and speak so that everyone else who was ever like you can recognize themselves. Can see that they aren’t alone. Can see how the past will only keep repeating itself as long as we’re kept powerless by our silence.”


“A seventeen-year-old girl in 1936 was still a seventeen-year-old girl, was still a whole person, regardless of her time. Her baby was a whole person too.”

So that's it, definitely pick this up if you don't mind a slower paced book but that will definitely pack a punch by the end! The author's note was highly important and I am so glad it was added.
Profile Image for Nev.
1,109 reviews153 followers
November 1, 2019
Gorgeously written and emotionally harrowing. This book went places I wasn’t expecting it to. Everyone thinks that Deena’s older sister Mandy is dead, everyone except Deena herself. Following a trail of clues that Mandy has left behind, Deena traces the history of her family and the curse that runs through generations.

I absolutely loved Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s writing. Everything was so atmospheric, all the settings around Ireland were described in such vivid ways. The story is about all the women who are labelled as “bad apples” by society because they’ve done something that goes against the norms for “nice, normal” women (being queer, being an unwed mother, etc), usually set up by the church. The writing really brought out all the intense emotions in the stories of these different women throughout history.

My one criticism is that the middle of the book started to feel a bit repetitive. “Go to place A, find a letter, learn about another person from the family history. Go to place B, find a letter, learn about another person from the family history.” And on and on and on. Eventually the story does break out of this pattern. I thought all the stories that are told and the different locations were really interesting, I just wish that section of the book didn’t seem so formulaic.
Profile Image for Solly.
467 reviews30 followers
January 7, 2020
This book fucked me up in the best way. Probably a fave of 2019.

I should have probably wrote my review just after reading this, because I was drowning in excitement and feelings. I mostly picked this up because it was half-price, had a beautiful cover, was queer and I had heard about some good reviews on Booktube.

And it was SO GOOD. I don't know what I expected but it was not this. Amazing teenage characters, most of them queer, on a quest of the past of the MC's family. It had a sort of dual timeline, exploring different (mostly) women's lives in Deena's family. Set in Ireland, it explored the generational trauma and abuse women and queer people endured in the past, while still echoing the present and how the world keeps silencing women in many ways.

It blew my mind. It made me incredibly emotional and angry and... I just felt a Lot.

All the characters are incredible. All the stories are somewhat horrifying and feel tragically real. And it takes all that past trauma and turns it into strength and hope for the future and it. Messed. Me. Up.

It's a brilliant book, honestly.
Profile Image for Elyse (ElyseReadsandSpeaks).
831 reviews44 followers
July 6, 2020
So... This was weird. Probably like a 2.5 rounded up. I am really trying to like magical realism, but again and again I am finding it's just not for me. However, I did enjoy the realistic parts of this book dealing with themes of sexuality, abortion, teenage pregnancy, parental (verbal) abuse, and abandonment. That being said, I feel like this is one of those books that tries to say something important, but the message gets lost in the story because there's just too much going on.

A ghost story without actual ghosts, people called banshees because... I don't know, much overuse of the word "apples," a treasure hunt to find a sister who might or might not be dead, a story about a family becoming a story about all women... There's just a lot going on.

I really liked the author's note because it helped me understand what she was trying to do, but it just missed the mark for me.
Profile Image for Chloe.
412 reviews86 followers
July 13, 2023
All The Bad Apples is not just a well-written, queer magical realism story - though that alone is a remarkable thing that always excites me to find. This book is a bold, powerful feminist story about women in Ireland, about the different reasons people are cast out of society, and about how to fight the system that wants to keep us cursed and branded as bad apples. It's about a family curse, about sisters and friends and forbidden lovers and suffering mothers and lost children.

Trigger warnings for things like homophobia, rape, abuse, abortion, miscarriage, suicide.
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