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A Fierce and Subtle Poison Hardcover – April 12, 2016

3.8 out of 5 stars 65 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-This first-person murder mystery is set in Puerto Rico, where Lucas, a biracial 17-year-old with blond hair and blue eyes, finds himself the prime suspect in the murders of two young women. It doesn't help that his hotel-developing American father is wealthy or that he enjoys frequenting parties. Even some of his local friends doubt his credibility given that he discovered the body of one of the victims, the beautiful Marisol-and his latest fling. Despite his shock, Lucas continues to be magnetically drawn to the ominous home of the American scientist Dr. Ford with its supposed wish-granting ghost. When he finds the man's spirited daughter Isabel instead, Lucas begins to understand the cause of recent bizarre events, and the two work together in a race against time to prevent further killings. Yet proximity to the girl results in physical illness, as well as a fatalistic attraction despite plagues of mosquitoes and even a hurricane. The magical realism in this book draws heavily on themes related to science and scientific research evidenced in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Rappaccini's Daughter," intertwined with references to legends of Dominican ciguapas-beautiful mythic female beings that lure men to their death. The "exotic" foreign setting includes suspicious, gossiping locals; lush landscapes; and extreme weather, together with eerie romance and unexpected perils requiring superherolike resolve and physical stamina. This book will appeal to teens, particularly fans of romance and murder mysteries; however, Lucas's outsider perspective toward the island, particularly at the beginning of the text, tends to mask critical themes of race, power, and identity, as well as the impact of U.S. control in Puerto Rico. VERDICT A complex text best used in book clubs or classrooms where teens can discuss the dominant monocultural readings of the book, as well as the tourist perspectives of Puerto Rico.-Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, ILα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review

“With its sparklingly sinister blend of natural history and magic, of themes that seem both modern and timeless, A Fierce and Subtle Poison gets under the skin.” Chicago Tribune

“A breathtaking story in which myths come to frightening life and buried wishes might actually come true.” —Nova Ren Suma, author of The Walls Around Us and Imaginary Girls

“Samantha Mabry’s magical debut is both a chilling mystery and a heartbreaking meditation on love, longing and sacrifice...A Fierce and Subtle Poison will get into your blood.” —Laura Ruby, author of Bone Gap

"Mabry cultivates a rich setting, offering lush descriptions of the island, its stories, and the sharp divide between the old world and the incoming new one, characterized by swift modernization and the careless destruction of history. Perfect for fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s atmospheric Marina.” —Sarah Hunter, Booklist

"[Mabry] steeps her debut novel in compelling Caribbean folklore and a lush, evocative setting...Fans of open-ended, atmospheric stories will enjoy the chilling suspense." Kirkus Reviews

"Inspired by Hawthorne’s ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter,’ debut author Mabry blends magical realism with mystery in the story of Lucas Knight, the 17-year-old son of a hotel developer spending his summers in San Juan. Mabry smoothly joins dreamy, fever-induced scenes with the lore of “la ciguapa,” a beautiful creature that leads men to insanity or death with a kiss, and her atmospheric ending guarantees goose bumps." —Publishers Weekly

“A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a great doorway into magical realism; it uses many of the genre's tropes in a way that feels both modern and self-aware…It's an impressive work; Mabry manages to combine a very romantic view of Puerto Rico with a critique of the poison that is sown by objectifying indigenous peoples and places. The book approaches its themes thoughtfully and with a visceral sense of place: Hurricane winds and the patter of rain against thick leaves are the driving rhythms at its heart. Readers looking for a different kind of fairytale and a sensuous setting will enjoy this foray into a strange and troubled garden.” NPR.org


Product details

  • Lexile Measure : 860L
  • Grade Level : 8 - 12
  • Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
  • Hardcover : 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1616205210
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1616205218
  • Product Dimensions : 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Publisher : Algonquin Young Readers (April 12, 2016)
  • Language: : English
  • Reading level : 13 - 18 years
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.8 out of 5 stars 65 ratings
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