Poisoned Apples

Title: Poisoned Apples

Author: Christine Heppermann

Release Date: Available

Poetry and YA aren’t usually two genres that mix, with the exception of a few authors such as Ellen Hopkins. So, naturally, as a poetry buff, I was intrigued when I heard of the premise of Christine Heppermann’s Poisoned Apples.

The book is a compilation of fifty free-verse poems that cleverly twists classic fairytales to depict the emotional and physical struggles of becoming a teenage girl. While many of the poems, such as “If Tampons Were for Guys,” are lighthearted on the surface, underneath, all of the poems all brilliantly satirize society’s construct of beauty and its physical expectations for women. The humor is dark and twisted, yet honestly portrays the inherent hypocrisy and sexism present in society today.

Powerful black and white images of young girls make Heppermann’s message even more powerful. Often simple and elegant photos of girls in plain, long dresses, the images represent society’s expectation of innocence and purity that Heppermann so brilliantly satirizes in the book.

Although it is a short read, Poisoned Apples is a brilliant work of satire, and a compelling read, even for those who are not fans of poetry.

Reviewed by Danielle

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Of Poseidon

Title: Of Poseidon

Author: Anna Banks

Release Date: Available

With Of Poseidon, author Anna Banks makes her debut in the world of young adult romance. Clumsy high school senior Emma has no idea she can hold her breath for thirty minutes or play basketball with dolphins until she runs into Galen (literally) at the beach. Galen is prince of a kingdom of the Syrena, mermaid-like creatures who live at the bottom of the ocean. When Galen discovers that Emma could be the glue that would reunite the two estranged Syrena kingdoms, he takes it upon himself to train her in their ways. Naturally, a forbidden and enticing romance develops.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this novel is its narrative style. Told from both Emma’s and Galen’s points of view, Emma’s narrative is in the first person, while Galen’s is in the third. This gives a unique insight into Emma’s feelings and motives, while Galen remains more mysterious. The different narrators also allow the reader to witness Emma’s exploration of the Syrena world while Galen is simultaneously trying to understand humans. Emma is witty and funny, describing herself as an “intoxicated walrus”. Above all, it is her candid dialogue, self-depreciating humor, and overuse of the word “Ohmysweetgoodness” that kept me hooked until the last page.

Although the story is a light romantic fantasy, some readers may be sensitive to the dynamic of Emma and Galen’s relationship. Galen always has Emma’s best interests at heart, but he is slightly Edward Cullen-esque, sneaking into her room through the balcony and stalking her on her date with a human boy. Emma is flattered, not disturbed, that he can make her “feel like some sort of pet”. And she is not the only female marginalized in the book. In Syrena culture, females have no choice in their mating partner, and do not even have to be present at the marriage ceremony. However, Banks does point out and briefly address the injustice of this system.

Overall, I found Of Poseidon humorous and engaging. Readers will enjoy Emma’s quirky diction and her charming banter with Galen. The novel is a quick read, an excellent book to devour over a weekend. I look forward to reading Anna Banks’ future books for young adults.

Review by Sami;

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The Blessed

the blessed cover

Title: The Blessed

Author: Tonya Hurley

Release Date: Available

Quick! Name any YA books with any overtly religious themes in 30 seconds! Okay, so I’m guessing you didn’t name very many. Most YA books don’t use religion as a main theme, or even address it in a significant way. This is probably due to the amount of controversy attached to writing about religion because writing itself carries a point of view and people do not always agree with those views. This is multiplied exponentially when you consider the fact that us adolescents are often seen as “impressionable” and parents might consider this book unacceptable to read for any number of reasons. No matter. This book is worth incurring their ire because it is simply phenomenal.

The book revolves around four main protagonists but it is occasionally narrated from other perspectives. The three girls, Agnes, Lucy and Cecelia, have no connection until they all end up in the hospital on the same night for radically different reasons. They are all eventually released, all with similar bracelets, given to them by a strange boy known as Sebastian. After being released from the hospital, they go about their lives until one night, when a storm of biblical proportions hits the city and they are all inexplicably drawn to a defunct cathedral. The storm effectively traps them in for three days and that three days changes everything those three girls know: who to trust, who they are and what is even real.

These characters are strong and decisive. I know that has become somewhat of a trope but it really works with this book partially because it shows the nitty-gritty of independence. Bad choices are a part of that and this book does not hesitate to demonstrate that. The characters, primary and secondary, also have many secrets about them and as these are revealed one after another you will be left impatient for the sequel.

I feel that this book is definitely worth reading. It does not confront faith as something to shy away from nor as something to embrace zealously. Think of it as Christian fantasy, a good story that uses faith as a powerful narrative device. Combine that with first-rate characters, scheming powers that be, and a harrowing plot and you have a book that has bestseller written all over it, in big gothic letters.

Review by Jake

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