Friday, November 28, 2014

Review - Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
by Christine Heppermann
Date: 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Reading level: YA
Book type: illustrated poetry collection
Pages: 128
Format: e-book
Source: library

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.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't quite know what to say about this one.  I just wasn't that impressed.  Based on the synopsis, I thought I'd be reading a collection of poems with an overarching theme, much like Cynthia Rylant's God Went to Beauty School, which I enjoyed.  While many of the poems in Poisoned Apples do draw from fairytales and their tropes, the overall theme is a little more broad.  I suppose it's a statement about teenage girls and the messages that society sends them.  At least, that's what the synopsis would like you to believe.  The message that I kept getting, however, was one that was unhealthily obsessed with weight.  There was a disproportionate number of poems that focused on being overweight and/or having an eating disorder.  One poem, "What She Heard the Waitress Say", strayed dangerously close to stereotyping and "skinny-shaming" (since the only character who's acknowledged as naturally skinny is portrayed as a bitch).  I was disappointed that, in a book supposedly about body image, very little thought was given to the other side: those girls who are naturally thin and/or who have trouble gaining weight, and who have to put up with a different -- though just as hurtful -- set of comments.

Still, I did enjoy a few of the poems.  "If Tampons Were for Guys" is humorous, as one might expect.  "To My Sheep, Wherever You Are" liberates Bo Peep from her ovine companions and turns her into a book lover.  "Nature Lesson" makes a very good point about dress codes and the reasons -- however ridiculous they might seem -- that they exist.  And "Bird Girl" is just lovely and poetic and fairytale-esque, and of a style that I wish I had seen more in the rest of the book.

One unique thing about this book is that it is illustrated with a number of black-and-white photographs.  Some of them are artsy, some of them are beautiful, and some of them are downright weird... but almost all of them are interesting and help to highlight the poems quite nicely.  One of my favourites accompanied "A Witch's Disenchantment".

It's a short book that I read in an afternoon, so it's not as if I invested a lot of time in it.  It might find a more appreciative audience among girls who have dealt with being overweight and/or have had eating disorders.

Quotable moment:

"Photoshopped Poem"

Some say the Before poem
had character.
This poem is much more attractive.
With the Healing Brush Tool
I took out most of the lines.
I left in a few
so it wouldn't look unnatural.

Recommended to: fans of poetry that deals with body image issues and societal expectations

Plot: n/a
Characters: n/a
Pace: n/a
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2.25 out of 5 ladybugs


  1. Oooh wait you did review it! Hmmm... too bad it didn't live up to your expectations. I've heard some mixed reviews on it... :(

  2. I don't like poetry, but it's a cool idea to use fairy tales to tell a story. Sounds like the blurb wasn't very accurate. I don't like the sounds of the negative message of this book. It should be that all girls are pretty regardless of size. I'm glad there were a few gems in there though. I like that it has photographs, that's a cool touch.