Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Poison Diaries - Bad Taste in My Mouth?

I've been saying for a while now that I'm completely burnt out on young adult paranormal novels. Vampires, no thanks. Werewolves, whatever. Ghosts, boooring.

I received The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood from the publisher (Balzer + Bray, imprint of HarperCollins) and thought it looked promising. (Hello, FTC, do you see this? It's my disclosure!)

The Poison Diaries is the story of Jessamine Luxton, daughter of an ambitious apothecary, Thomas Luxton. He grows innumerable plants for his cures and concoctions, but Jessamine is banned from the poison garden where he keeps his most powerful plants. One day, by chance, a boy named Weed with "special abilities" is dropped off at their door. Soon his relationship with Jessamine begins to blossom and everything hits the fan.

I was particularly drawn to this book because it's about plants! I love plants, obviously, from all the gardening pics and food/homesteading books I read, and this one sounded refreshingly earthy in the realm of YA lately. The first 3/4 of the book was superb. I loved reading about Thomas Luxton's cures and the various plants that Jessamine tended. The small family lived in an old abandoned church. Delicious atmosphere. Jessamine was someone I liked...curious, seemingly strong, devoted.

It was the last 1/4 of the book that lost me. Suddenly, just as I was REALLY loving the book, it took a weird supernatural turn. Now, given, the book was never perfect. It was predictable from the start. I knew right off the bat who the villain was going to be, and I knew when the villain's dastardly deeds began to play out. But I didn't care! Up to the last quarter, I was enjoying the writing and atmosphere so much that none of the predictability bothered me in the slightest. And in truth there were supernatural elements throughout--Weed's "powers"--but that part of the story was well-integrated and seemed to fit.  The super-supernatural ending seemed to elevate the existing supernatural elements to a level that was tiresome, overblown, and annoying. It became a slog, quite honestly. Even if I wasn't burned out on the supernatural, I don't think it would've worked for me.

This is the beginning of a trilogy, and I'm really on the fence about whether I'll attempt the second book. While I did enjoy Jessamine and Weed, and while I was thoroughly compelled for most of the book, the climax and denouement really were enough to give me pause.

On a lighter note, I was compelled to read this book by another interesting nugget. The cover of the book says "written by Maryrose Wood" and "based on a concept by the Duchess of Northumberland." A little blurb alongside the author's explains that the current Duchess of Northumberland has spent the last 14 years building beautiful public gardens at Alnwick Castle. One of the gardens is a poison garden full of dangerous plants and herbs (belladonna, mandrake), and some of them even require a license to keep (cannabis, coca). I'm completely fascinated by this idea. It's sort of morbid and poetic at the same time. From the looks of the garden complex, it's somewhere I would love to visit if I ever make it to northern England.

Visit the website for yourself!

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