I think it was Jenny who loved this book a while back, and I've meant to read it ever since. RIP finally stirred me to it. Wow. It is a great story, and also takes some very unexpected turns.
Every couple of months, Ivy's dad, Philip, takes her and her three sisters to go visit their Great-Aunt Maeve, who lives way out in the country. Philip takes care of her mail and business, and the girls are never supposed to tell anyone that Maeve Reynolds is actually Adela Madden, author of the beloved fantasy novel Ivory Apples. Maeve can't, and won't, handle the publicity and the fans.
At the park, the sisters meet Kate Burden, a remarkably friendly young woman who insinuates herself into the family's life. She is an obsessive fan of Ivory Apples, and in fact she wants what Adela Madden had in order to write the story, which is not something easy to come by. She is willing to destroy the entire family in order to get what she wants, and she sets out to do just that.
This is a novel that pushes past the usual boundaries for a fantasy novel like this, and it took me by surprise. They don't all live to the end, and they don't all get healed. Ivy herself is an unusual protagonist. I think it is all more realistic -- it's just not according to the conventions. Kate Burden is a very disturbing and frightening adversary.
It's fascinating, because there are all these threads: What inspires us to write stories, and is it possible to become a genius storyteller if you aren't? What are the boundaries of fandom; should an author have to accept a public life as the price of writing a good story? Ivy feels the need to protect her sisters, but the way she tries to do that is experienced as abandonment. On the other hand, she was 13 and not exactly well-equipped for the job. Is it her job to heal her family, and if so, how? And, finally -- do we have the right to demand what we want from life? Or does the key sit in a different lock?
It's an excellently-written novel, and I did enjoy it; it's no wonder it won an award! It was also a little bit of a shock. But I suppose that is salutary now and then. If you like fantasy -- especially the modern varieties -- well, then you've probably already read and loved Ivory Apples. But if you haven't, grab a copy!