Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood (based on a concept by The Duchess of Northumberland)

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray; (July 20, 2010)

Book synopsis: In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love.

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined. . . .

My review: The power of herbs, a garden of poisonous plants, the blossoming of forbidden love. I was sucked into reading The Poison Diaries by the synopsis alone. 

Jessamine, 16, has been sheltered growing up the lone child of her cold apothecary father who spends more time with fauna than his family. When he takes in an abandoned boy, aptly named Weed (with a curious reputation for helping the townspeople by allegedly putting something into their water supply), he greedily sees a chance at finally being recognized. Jessamine sees the opportunity for some wanted company from her solitary existence.

Weed, an otherworldy, strange boy, has a secret he doesn't want to share. As Jessamine befriends him, talking, sharing and reaching out to the shy, quiet lad, Weed begins to feel things for his surroundings and, ultimately, for her. Their scenes together, especially the outdoor scenes where they talk, explore and open up to each other, are tender and written in a loving manner. I found both characters likable the more the story progressed. Their romance unwinds slowly and naturally (unlike some other YA romances).

As Weed's own story unfurls, Jessamine's selfish father sees the chance for botanical notoriety and schemes to use Weed's botanical skills to his own advantage. But to get to Weed this cunning man knows he has to lure the boy in, even if it means using his own daughter.

When something unfortunate happens to Jessamine, she enters a strange dimension and meets the surreal Oleander. To rescue her, Weed has to enter the one place he despises, the locked up and unnatural poison garden Jessamine's father so lovingly cares for. Towards the end of the story things turned enchanting, magical and weirdly alluring. It was like reading The Secret Garden meets Sleeping Beauty on the way through a play land set up by the Brothers Grimm.

The story goes by so quickly I finished wanting more insight into Jessamine, Weed and Oleander. Since The Poison Diaries is the first book in a planned trilogy, we will have to wait for the next book to get some closure. Until then I'll regard plants with new eyes.

Favorite excerpt: From page 126-127, ARC edition.

     ""Isn't it amazing?" I say to Weed, who now stands next to me. He looks ashen and preoccupied. I keep my voice merry and my arm hidden beneath my shawl, so Father will not suspect anything is amiss. "Before the season is over these plants will be nearly as tall as I am."

     Playfully, I tease the little plants with the tip of a stick I find on the ground. "Hello, lovely girls. I wonder if you remember me? Jessamine, who bathed you so tenderly, and cared for you every day before you were born?"

     With sudden violence Weed seizes the stick. He looks at me, astonished. Then he groans and collapses to the ground."

Rating: +++1/2

Cover comment: A nice, unrevealing picture of a girl who's supposed to be Jessamine. Doesn't give us any insight into what the story is about.

Book source: Own.

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