Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann

Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Every little girl goes through her princess phase, whether she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel. But then we grow up. And life is not a fairy tale.

Christine Heppermann's collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it "a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that's caustic, funny, and heartbreaking."

Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.

What I Liked:

I don't think there are too many YA books written entirely in poetry. There are plenty in verse, but not poetry. This book consists of fifty poems about the life of the modern teenage girl. I love poetry, so when I saw that this one was written entirely in poems, I was all over this. Plus, fairy tale retellings! Each poem is a fairy tale retelling.

I don't think I'm going to summarize fifty poems, but basically, each one tells a different portion of a teenager girl's life. Eating disorders, beauty, sexuality, romance, confidence, parents, alcohol... Heppermann hits all of the topics that most people think relate to teenagers. 

By no means do all of these things relate to all teenage girls. I don't have an eating disorder, I don't have horrible parents, I don't drink, I don't hook up with random people, I'm a confident person, I couldn't care less about makeup and beauty flaws and whatnot... basically, the content of each poem had nothing to do with my life, or me. However, I loved reading each one. I love seeing what other teen girls *might* be going through, their lives so very different from mine.

The writing is beautiful. It's poetry, and the writing is so lyrical and poetic. Each poem has a different mood and tone, but the rhyme scheme is pretty consistent. I LOVE this one line:

"You can get lost anywhere." (somewhere in the first 25%)

I love how each poem and each story is also a fairy tale retelling. Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Princess and the Frog... there are fifty retellings, which is awesome! I confess, I didn't know all of them, but I knew most of them. I do love Grimm's Fairy Tales. *winks* The author's note was awesomeeeee, I never thought about what the author said!

What I Did Not Like:

Two things: I didn't connect to the "modern teenage girl" that Heppermann portrayed in her poems, and I didn't understand some of the poems. Let me explain.

While I totally think that this book is relevant, and that each poem is relevant and its message important, I didn't relate. I didn't connect. Call me a snob, "perfect", whatever, I don't care. My life isn't like the girl's life portrayed by these poems. So I didn't connect. Again, NOT saying that these poems aren't relevant or significant.

Second thing: some of the poems, especially towards the end, were confusing. Maybe I wasn't familiar with the particular fairy tale. Most of the time though, I was, but I was confused about the story. I didn't quite grasp the message of the poem, or understand it. This happened with poems mostly towards the end of the book. I wanted to know what Heppermann was trying to say in these poems... but I couldn't figure it out. This is coming from an "expert" poem analyst (I'm making up that title, but seriously, I excel when it comes to poetry and reading between the lines and layers and whatnot).

Would I Recommend It:

I encourage people to read any and all poetry books, because I absolutely LOVE poetry, and most of the time, people don't read enough poetry. HOWEVER, I will say that you can't really read this one as fiction. You can't go in thinking that each poem will be connected, that one will continue the story set by the previous one. Maybe that was supposed to be the case, but it didn't really turn out that way for me. I still recommend this one though.


3 stars. More like 3.5 stars. Not because I didn't like it enough to give it four or five stars. But more like this shouldn't be read as fiction, it will not be easy to relate to for probably most bookworms (generalization here), and it gets confusing towards the end. WONDERFUL poems though!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. wow, this sounds cool! I'm sorry you didn't totally love it, it does sound great though!

    1. It is, really! You should check it out, Carrie :D

  2. Great review Alyssa. <3 And omg, I wouldn't relate to any of that either.. sigh. And I kind of HATE to read about girls that way. Sorry :D I just do. And omg. Poems are not for me, hah :D Not yet anyway ;p But I'm glad you enjoyed that part; and that you found the writing to be beautiful. <3 Thank you for sharing sweetie :) I do like the cover, though ;p

    1. Awww! This probably isn't the right book for you - and I totally get what you're saying, Carina! I agree, the cover is fabulous ^_^ You're welcome - and thank YOU!

  3. I have been intrigued by this one but given that I am no longer a teenager girl by any stretch of the imagination and poetry and myself have a rather bumpy relationship on occasion... I think I might skip this one!
    Thank you for your very honest review!

    1. It's so different, being a teenager NOW than, let's say, ten years ago, or twenty, or thirty, etc. Even my brother who is 23, is like, teens are so different from when I was in high school/college!

      You're very welcome, Pili! And thank you!

  4. I'm so glad you found this one worth the read! I have a copy and was intrigued by the idea of making fairytales and modern life intermixed in YA poetry! You never see that. I will have to pick this one up soon...thanks for the awesome review!

    1. I honestly think it's worth the read - just don't expect too much, in terms of a STORY. Read them as poems with powerful messages. Like poetry :D You're welcome!!

  5. I'm not much of a poetry person (except perhaps Edgar Allan Poe), but I do like fairy tale retellings, so we'll consider this one. Great review!

    1. It's a quick read, and you might really enjoy it, Kel!


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