A Fierce and Subtle PoisonWritten by Samantha Mabry
(Algonquin Young Readers - 4/12/2016)Genres: Magical Realism, Young Adult
Format: eARC (288 pages)
Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl--Isabel, the one the señoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.
Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers--and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.
FTC Disclosure: This book was provided to me from the author or publisher (NetGalley), free of charge, with the understanding that my intention is to read it and provide feedback in the form of an honest review. I am not compensated in any way in exchange for positive reviews, and I don’t let anything other than the book's contents affect my opinions and review.
I’ve had some trouble putting my thoughts together on this book, and I’m not sure why. On the one hand, A Fierce and Subtle Poison was an interesting experience, with a setting and theme that aren’t my typical fare. On the other hand, I suppose I felt a bit disconnected from the story.
The book is set in Puerto Rico and I think this is one of my favorite things about it. At times, I almost felt like I was there — I could feel the heat and humidity, imagine swatting those mosquitoes away — and I really enjoyed being able to test what I remembered from Spanish class, thanks to all of the words and phrases en Español peppered throughout the book. In fact, I even got excited and started reading the book with an accent, until I realized that the MC (thus, narrator) was a white kid. Boo!
There are a handful of mysteries in this book, and I must admit that some intrigued me more than others. It’s a shame when the woman in the refrigerator gets put there before I really have a chance to care about her, because it dampens my overall investment in the story. The mysteries I was more curious about were definitely the scientific and magical elements (which probably says something about my typical reading interests), and I was mostly satisfied with the attention they were given within the story.
I’m struggling to pinpoint many things that truly stood out to me — in any way — and so I feel like I’m just coming to the conclusion that this book didn’t impress me, but didn’t really disappoint me either. My 3.5-star rating speaks for itself then: it was enjoyable, but not overly so. (I did get to see a hardcover of it and it’s *very pretty*. Alas, I did forgo the purchase.)