Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
by Christine HeppermannPublished by Greenwillow
on September 23, 2014Genres: Poetry
, YA Pages:
eARCSource: eARC via Edelweiss
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.
A YA poetry book? Sounds sketchy. A feminist YA poetry book? OH YEAH, PUT IT IN MY HANDS AND LET ME LOVE IT, DEAR FEMALE-DEITY-OF-YOUR-CHOICE. Please feminism my YA until it no longer knows what the word “slut” is and how to use it against other female characters (or at least only do so if the ultimate point is how no one should use it; no more mean girls using it just to show they’re mean). It took me a little while to get used the idea and get to this little book, but once I settled in with Poisoned Apples, I swallowed it whole and very nearly died of happiness. It’s not always good feminism, but all these poems have girls and their needs/issues in mind.
Reviewing poems ain’t like reviewing an anthology; I can’t just list the titles of all fifty poems and give my impressions of them! Even for me, that would end up being a long review and I want some of these poems to surprise readers. “Sleeping Beauty’s Wedding Day,” “A SHAPE MAGAZINE Fairy Tale,” and “The Anorexic Eats a Salad” are a particularly good group of poems in that they all share the common theme of how hard it is for women to have a good perception of food and their bodies when everything is telling them they need to be thin and perfectly plucked and pretty in impossible ways. Though separated, I see the third poem’s subject as a result of the first two.
The occasional stumbling poems were either too poetically phrased to be intelligible in any way or kinda screw up in being feminist. Case in point, “Life Among the Swans” perpetuates the idea that girls who aren’t “pretty” are safe from harassment by the hounds of boys who put their hands where they shouldn’t and follow pretty girls like they’re prey. This is a really dangerous idea to propagate because any girl can be a victim of sexual harassment no matter what she looks like or what she’s wearing. That may not be the poem’s intended message, but the power of poetry is in its interpretation and that this is the interpretation I got.
Yeah, short review and all, but this is such a strong collection generally that I don’t have much to say. Just go ahead and pre-order or buy it if you like feminism. Even if you don’t care much for poetry, go for it. I don’t care for poetry either and still want a copy of the book for my own shelves! Smart enough to impress veteran feminists and newbies at once while being entertaining, Poisoned Apples is just a good little set of poems. I’d love to see more of Heppermann’s work.
Keep an eye out for my own Poisoned Apples-inspired poem I’ll be posting soon!