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The Poison Apples Hardcover – September 18, 2007
From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—Alice, Reena, and Molly meet at an elite boarding school in rural Massachusetts. It takes them a while to realize that they've all landed there primarily because of their wicked stepmothers, but once discovered, this fact binds them in friendship and their shared desire to exact revenge on the new women in their lives during Thanksgiving break. Because readers see them only from the girls' viewpoints, the insensitivity and self-absorption of their stepmothers are stupendously exaggerated—as is the cluelessness of their fathers. This does provide ample scope for humor, however, and allows the girls to have changes of heart as their perceptions mature a tad. Not essential, but good fun.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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This book had its cute points but the plot wasn't all that. The stepmothers, as a whole, didn't seem THAT evil, though there were a few moments here and there of catty remarks & manipulation from the stepmothers to the stepdaughters that made me think okay, that was a little mean. The "take down" plotting element actually doesn't play a huge part in the story, it's mostly about the girls just building their friendships with each other.
A couple parts of the story got just a hint darker than I was expecting (for example, one parent checks themself into a mental hospital, which understandably really affects the child; also, fifteen-sixteen year olds bemoaning the fact that they don't have more sexual experience weirded me out a bit) but for the most part the tone is in that light, fast-paced, almost hyper voice that you find in many YA books. Personally, if I read too many books in that style in one stretch it drives me batty but I'm guessing it'll appeal to young teens or tweens. I did like that the storyline brings up important topics for today's world such as cultural diversity, effects of divorce on children, and how to successfully blend families after parents remarry. Also, there's the important message of revenge not always being as satisfying as you'd think.
Now I have to confess from the start that I have an unhealthy obsession with boarding schools. I love the very idea of boarding schools. I want to send my future kids to boarding schools. I wanted to attend a boarding school, even after my brief unsuccessful stint in boarding school, I wanted to go to another one. I was convinced that my disappointment was entirely due to the fact that I was at a Christian Boarding School.
On to the actual book... Three girls suffer the misfortune of having their fathers marry truly evil women. Alice's stepmom is a famous Broadway actress who is a total bitch to her. Reena's stepmom (Reena is an Indian-American) is a white chick who is more Indian then anyone in Reena's family. Molly's stepmom has twin girls that she want Molly to stay home and take care of, instead of attending the boarding school where she has a full scholarship and a stipend. Here are the thoughts on each of the cases...
Alice - R. (her stepmom) goes on crazy psycho mood when Alice voices some hesitations she has concerning the fact that her dad got engaged after only three months of dating. The dad just expects her to accept it, like nothing is wrong. And then, to make matters worse, when R is acting her most immature (not talking to Alice), she gets the father to send her to sell their house that she grew up in and move into R's apartment that doesn't have a bedroom for Alice.
Reena - Her father proceeds to leave her mom (via email) and immediately marries this psychoatic yoga instructor who thinks she is Indian. The father proceeds to inform his children that the divorce will get messy and they should go to boarding school on the opposite side of the country rather then be around for this. He then proceeds to give in to his new wifes every whim ignoring the needs and wants of his children. He also cuts off his ex-wife even though she put him through medical school. She is forced to sell many of her possession and to live with her sister, meanwhile the father spends millions on the new decorations for the house and building a habitat for the penguin that she just had to have. And the worst part is that every time the older brother starts to complain to the father, he gets angry and threatens them.
Molly - Molly's father divorces her mother and marries his other lady almost immediately. The mother, shortly after the divorce, realizes that she can't deal with all of it and so she selfishly decides to check herself into a mental hospital and not have contact with her children. This is shocking considering the fact that Molly tells the readers that her parents fight all the time, almost without ceasing. Then Molly's stepmom really lays on the guilt about Molly attending the boarding school when she should be at home taking care of the children and helping around the house. The stepmom is so bad that Alice runs away from the house and has no contact with her family for a month. In addition, no one even tells her when her mother moves away.
All together, I was left wondering how parents could honestly be that selfish. It is like, in all of these cases, when the father found someone else, the child ceased to exist. I know if my parents ever got a divorce, my sisters and I would still be top priority, not relegated to the side. I feel like all of the main characters (Molly, Reena, and Alice) all blame everything on the stepmothers when just as much, if not more, blame could be placed on the father's shoulders. I mean, they are the biological parent and they should be watching out for their kids. They should never allow every whim of the stepmom to take precedence over the happiness of the children. I am not saying that the children should get the run of the house, but to not even let them express their opinion (Reena), or force them to be the unpaid help (Molly), or sit by and watch them get humiliated and verbally abused time and time again by the stepmom (Alice) is just wrong of the father.
And then there is the issue of the end of the book... if the ending had not happened the way it had, I probably would have given this book a 4.5/5 stars, but unfortunately, it is down to 3-3.5 (leaning towards the 3). In the last thirty pages, all of the evil stepmothers have an abrupt 180 (except Reena's stepmom) and they are totally nice and their for their stepdaughter despite the fact that they had been hideous monsters the whole rest of the book. It was just too unbelievably nauseating. By the time it got to the end story for the third girl I was like "Gosh, I don't even want to know what cheesefest is about to take place." Now I like happy endings. I like everything to end perfectly and stuff, but this was not that. It might have been an acceptable ending if it had stretched out longer and slower over another 100-200 pages. It just came out of the blue and I was not willing to accept it. Plus the revelation that the enemy of the group was going through a hard time at home (shocker) and that they should becomes friends with her was too much. I couldn't handle it. It might make me a bad person, but if the person who had been making my life a living hell the past semester at school admitted to me that she was going through a rough time, I would feel sad for her but I would not let it be my problem.
All in all, this book up to last 50 pages gets a 4.5/5 stars... but with the last 50 pages, it is dragged down to a awful 3.25/5 stars. In the future, when I re-read this book, I will skip the last 50 pages and make up a new ending in my head. Maybe I will write it down, print it out and paste it into the book...
However, once the three heroines have found one another and bonded over their wicked stepmothers, the book falters badly. In Part II, the three girls' romances are much too abrupt and undeveloped; their decision to seek revenge on their stepmothers is bumpy; and the actual execution of the revenge plots is just lame. The plots take each girl back home and away from all the others, which is a structural problem in the narrative; and each has only one chapter in which to 1) fail in her revenge; and 2) see that it wasn't a good idea in the first place. This needed a lot more thought.
Still, a very promising first book. I look forward to reading more by this author.
Most recent customer reviews
I had the feeling that I would really enjoy this book after reading the first few pages, and for the most part that was true as the story...Read more