Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Lily Archer's The Poison Apples pivots on a promising premise- three girls are sent to a Massachusetts boarding school after gaining an evil stepmother. Self-doubting Molly, popular Reena, and hometown smartie Alice take turns narrating their tale.
Unlike some young adult novels, these girls don't immediately become best friends. This take is far more realistic, and after a rough start, the trio eventually band together as the Poison Apples. Throughout the novel, positive teen relationships abound- Reena sticks up for her less popular friends, and Reena's big brother has a similarly strong moral compass. The mean popular kids are interestingly portrayed as boring instead of as local celebrities.
The Poison Apples aren't founded until midway through the book, leaving the reader wondering. As they first convene on their dormitory roof, the title comes into play, giving meaning to the eye-candy cover and red-ink-trimmed pages. This clever cover design will draw the eye of any casual shelf-scanner.
After The Poison Apples' first meeting, the premise falls apart- while the characters are realistic and likeable, their dialogue peppered with just the right amount of pop culture, the Poison Apples cannot physically work together to make sure their respective evil stepmothers get theirs. They function as moral support, which again provides a template for positive teen relationships. Archer's take on teen characters is spot-on, but adult characters, mostly parents, are left as stereotypes until our three protagonists realize their parents are flawed people too, at the very end, hinting at a sequel.