As a distraction from sleazy male admirers, spiteful classmates and her mother's cancer, Eve's eyes are opened to a multicolour life of one-night stands, drug-fuelled discos and cheap plonk. She barely has time to notice Adam. Adam, however, notices Eve. While contending with sexual frustration, a violent father and increasingly compulsive behaviour, is he too busy reading Razzle in the attic to make his move? Narrated alternately by Adam and Eve, alongside a cast of delinquents, perverts and butterflies, Apples is an exploration of the difficulties of growing up and of getting 'fucked as quick as you can'.
'Funny, tragic and transcendent. If you were ever a teenager, read it' - Lauren Laverne
'If... Bret Easton Ellis had grown up in a North of England housing project, Less Than Zero might have looked a bit like Apples. It's one of the best books I've ever read about being young, working-class and British' - Irvine Welsh
'Wonderful... Apples is unlike any novel I've read. Who knows? We may have discovered our J.D Salinger early' - John Sutherland, Financial Times
'[An] unbelievably good, affecting, unpretentious debut novel... more than anything, Apples feels truthful: whether the drugs, the sex, the boozing or the brutal insecurities of adolescence, it all smacks beautifully of the real thing' - Jon Elek, Time Out
'Crass, graphic, funny and unnerving... well constructed and streaming with gorgeous language, it's a frighteningly recognisable glimpse into a particular experience of adolescence' - Catherine Taylor, The Guardian
'A retelling of Paradise Lost set on a Middlesbrough housing estate. Apples is... experimental, fearless, funny and frightening' - Sarah Hughes, The Observer
'If this terrifyingly talented author really does have his finger on the pulse of today's youth, parents should probably just give up right now' - Jeff Turentine, New York Times
'Milward gives his characters such rich inner lives that it's impossible not to care deeply about them. We will them towards each other as they negotiate a minefield of unwanted pregnancies, violence, and drug-taking' - Tom Fleming, The Spectator
'Electrifying' - Melissa Katsoulis, The Times
'An astonishing debut... Catcher in the Rye meets the Arctic Monkeys' - Hannah Betts, The Times
'Dazzling... I loved Apples... If I were an adolescent, I'd read and re-read [it] until it fell apart' - thebookbag.co.uk
'Written with a naive candour [and]... with appealing freshness and humour' - The Guardian
'A confident, no-holds-barred and bizarrely optimistic story - a fairy tale with plenty of heart' - Sunday Business Post
'Barely in his double digits and this boy can WRITE! Apples is our little joy of the month' - The Guardian, Going Up
'It's provocative subject matter is the least striking thing about the novel: what is fascinating about it is Milward. Already he possesses an idiosyncratic style that many writers go whole careers without discovering' - The Times
'The moment I started reading I was hooked... Milward writes with ferocious, infectious energy [and] sharp, black wit - Mail on Sunday
I had to shut things several times before I felt they were really closed. For example, that afternoon I had to shut the book we were reading, Romeo and Juliet, eight times before putting it in my bag, or else the school blows up. Miss Moore clocked me doing it, this mad grimace on her face as I heart-massaged the paperback, and I never went to another library lesson again. But worse than that, she once caught me slamming and reslamming the English door on the way to the toilet, and a little bit of piss did pop out. I saw this programme the other week about obsessive-compulsive disease, but I couldn't be bothered going to the doctors.
Since Friday I couldn't stop staring at Eve and Debbie. We had to draw self-portraits in Art after dinner - my page had on it hollow eyes, sunk cheeks and skeleton bones; what a sexy bastard. Mr Gray said it was abstract; I thought it was pretty heartbreaking. I had a sigh. I was always depressed. I pressed really hard into my eye sockets, accentuating the lifelessness and staring. Eve had drawn a cute blonde girl in crayon, slim with curvy lines in all the right places. The Prick scribbled a musclebound hunk with a massive bulge - did I mention he was also a total twat. Burny was a charcoal mess, but in real life everyone liked him - he had a bit of Italiano blood in him, and he was in the football team and all that shite. Donna was his trophy girlfriend but she wasn't drop-dead amazing - she always wore a red jumper with black tights, and she'd drawn a ladybird in colour pencil. I was positive they'd done all the rude stuff together - the Prick reckoned he shagged someone at Butlin's a year back, but it was probably his five fingers. He was a knob - as soon as he found out about sex off the Personal Development video he went round name-dropping 69s and creampies as if he did them every breaktime. But I was positive his only sex experience was pulling girls' pants down when we were young, and even now he was a pervy little cunt with a permanently smarmy fucked-up face.
Saying that, I was trying not to be seedy but something about Eve had my eyes magnified. She was by far the prettiest girl in any of my classes - gold highway hair, eyes like butterflies, and thighs to die for. I often fantasised drilling a wonderwall in the girls' shower but I didn't really have the tools for it. In her purple skirt Eve kept crossing her legs over and over, sometimes flashing a bit of skin underneath and I was getting ruffled. Her Lycra shorts reminded me of Razzle, but she was miles superior to those daft bitches. Whenever she looked over I pretended to be watching out the window, Marton Road all grey and green and I tried to see the trees slowly dropping all their leaves. When I pop my cherry the world will be a sunburst of petals. I hope it's me and her.
I imagined us quaffing wine in the finest restaurant; I'd have to swish it round my mouth and spit it in the bucket, and now and again Eve would touch me under the table while we twizzled our spaghetti. We'd suck it up together til we kissed in the middle, all the birds outside tweeting us a lovesong. I'd say all the right things and make her throw her head back with laughter. Then I'd take her to the cinema, holding hands and rubbing legs all through her favourite chick flick thing. We'd come out around ten o'clock, proceed to a club and dance rumbas til the lights come on - I'd buy all her drinks, and we'd kiss and I'd get that feeling in my stomach like a thousand lit candles. She'd introduce me to all her friends, and they'd fall in love with my sharp wit and charm and insist we marry and have lots of kids. I'd phone for a taxi at about 1:30, letting her have my coat as we walked in the cold to the rank. We wouldn't have to wait long, and I'd offer her a coffee at mine and she'd accept. We'd laugh at the innuendo and keep kissing until Easterside. After tipping the driver we'd watch the taxi soften in the distance, and I'd hug and whisper a sweet nothing in her ear. Bubbling inside I'd take Eve's hand, quietly unlock the front door, taking care not to rush or make her nervous. We'd kiss in the hallway, and kiss on the landing and all the way into the bedroom. She wouldn't laugh at all my crap lying around. I'd light incense, the dim light illuminating rose petals strewn across the four-poster bed. Instead of coffee I'd pop open a champagne bottle, sitting Eve down on the scented covers. Pouring a glass, we'd talk for hours about love and life until we both felt comfortable. I'd caress her smooth, sumptuous skin like moonlight brought to flesh, and I'd put on two condoms if she wanted. Her bra would ping off without any trouble. And her knickers. I'd ask politely if she wanted me on top, taking care not to slather on her neck or bite her nipples or thrust too hard or not so any foreplay or anything else men always get slated for. I'd put on the Stones' 'She's a Rainbow' or 'Let's Spend the Night Together' and she wouldn't take it the wrong way, a rainbow being where the man gets period in his mouth and the girl gets cum in hers and they kiss. We'd writhe around to the humming guitars, our bodies like Plasticine slowly getting pushed together. As the room fills with flower smell, we'd slowly build momentum and climax completely simultaneously. Naturally, once she reaches orgasm twenty more times we'd stay up talking and cuddling til daybreak. And then the bell went.
Apples vs the Forest Hill Book Group on The Culture Show, 2007