Book Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty

Posted August 31, 2014 by Kara in book review / 6 Comments

Book Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My PrettyPoisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann
Published by Greenwillow Books on September 23rd, 2014
Genres: poetry, retellings, young adult
Pages: 128
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.

One of the best reading moments is when I find a book that looks like something I’m gonna LOVE and then it delivers 100%.  When the right book hits the right reader, magic happens.  It happened for me with Poisoned Apples.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty is a short book, but it is not lacking in material or emotional punch.  These poems are short and concise but each delivers its message unwaveringly.  These words are scathing and raw and urgent and so honest.  I feel like Heppermann captured the feeling of being a teenage girl, or honestly a woman of any age, who is tired of being constantly bombarded with messages and images designed to tell us the “right” way to be a woman.  You must be attractive and demure and everything about you must be just so.  These poems take those feelings – the helplessness and the pressure and the drowning – and turn them into weapons.  It was invigorating to read.

I love fairy tale retellings; I’ll basically read anything that’s marketed as some dark twist on a classic fairy tale.  Favorites include Cruel Beauty, The Lunar Chronicles.  One turns Beauty and the Beast into a high fantasy full of mythology and demons; the other pulls from various stories and spins a futuristic sci-fi.  Poisoned Apples does what I have rarely seen done well:  it modernizes these stories and tells them in present day, twists them into something familiar.

When you read this (and you really should) don’t forget to take a look at the author’s note.  Heppermann really pulls everything together at the end with her afterword, giving insight into her inspiration and her feelings while reading.  About the origins of many of our favorite fairy tales, and how women used these stories of princesses and talking wolves and too-hot porridge to say the things that men did not want to hear.  Heppermann’s words were inspiring.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  This is not a novel written in verse – this is a collection of poems retelling the fairy tales we loved growing up and twisting them into something I feel is very important.  The author weaves her messages into these timeless stories seamlessly.  These poems are powerful and haunting and beautifully written, interspersed with disturbing and gorgeous imagery.  A must read for any lover of poetry and fairy tales.

bekkabingo applesThis book covers the Retelling square on my Bookish Bingo card.

6 responses to “Book Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty

  1. I’ve already read this book three times, now I’m wishing I had a hardcopy that I could read till it became dust and I’m not even a big fan of poetry. Great review, Bekka. You’ve hit on every single thing I loved.
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