Review: Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann

24 September, 2014 Blog Tours, Giveaways, Reviews 16 comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Poisoned Apples by Christine HeppermannPoisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann
Series: Standalone
Published by Greenwillow Books on September 23rd 2014
Pages: 128
Genres: Fantasy, Poetry, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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.

Christine Heppermann handles female issues in such a unique and interesting way in Poisoned Apples. Her poetic style is quirky, witty and deeply real, highlighting numerous problems with gender inequality girls face throughout their pubescent stage into adulthood. Keep in mind, however, that she also somehow manages to infuse these with classic fairy tales we grow up on. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and other themes like Prince Charming are merged with issues such as sex, eating disorders, body image, social pressures, sexism, abuse and more. And as an added bonus we’re treated to mesmerizing photographs like this:

For the most part, I really felt like I could identify with many of the poems in one way or another, especially the ones on body image and the society’s outrageous beauty standards for women through use of mainstream media. I love how she questions what beauty is and what it means to be a woman. But I supposed what I liked best was Heppermann’s ability to convey these messages in very little words. Take, for example, 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.

The way the poems are written are so very clever and smart. Some even made me chuckle a bit with her use of sometimes unusual places, phrases and items. Simon Says, the Abercrombie dressing room and even G.I. Joe’s all seem to find themselves in the pages of Poisoned Apples. I’ve found myself re-reading some of my favorites at random times of the day and I seem to take something different away each time.

Also, guys, THAT COVER.


Now, I will says that there were some poems that completely went over my head, but that’s mostly my fault for being genuinely terrible at poetry. Alas, even Steph Sinclair has her Kryptonite.

That doesn’t change the fact that this tiny book, only 128 pages, is probably one of the most memorable that I’ve read this year and I want as many of my friends to pick this novel up. It feels like this one could get easily overlooked at a bookstore and that’s a real shame because Heppermann’s bold style is bound to leave marks and open dialogue. It’s not to be missed.

About Christine Heppermann

Christine Heppermann is a writer, poet, and critic. Her book of poetry for young adults, Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, will be published by Greenwillow Books in September, 2014. Poisoned Apples has been called "a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that's caustic, funny and heartbreaking" (E. Lockhart) and a "powerful and provocative exploration of body image, media, and love" (Rae Carson).

Christine's first book, City Chickens (Houghton Mifflin, 2012), is a nonfiction story about a shelter for abandoned and unwanted chickens in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In 2015 Greenwillow Books will publish the first book of the Backyard Witch Series, written by Christine and Ron Koertge. The middle-grade series follows three best friends and a mysterious visitor who appears for curious adventures just when they need her most.

Christine was a columnist and reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine from 1996 until 2013. Her poems are published in 5AM, The Magazine of Contemporary Poetry; Poems and Plays; Kite Tales; Nerve Cowboy; The Mas Tequila Review; and The Horn Book Magazine. Her reviews of children's and young adult books have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She has an MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University.

Follow the rest of the tour!

Sept. 21 – Andye @ – Guest Post
Sept. 22 – Liza @ WhoRU Blog – Review
Sept. 23 – Jenny @ Supernatural Snark – Interview
Sept. 24 – Hannah @ The Irish Banana Review – Review
Sept. 25 – Stephanie @ No BS Book Reviews – Interview
Sept. 26 – Katie @ MundieMoms – Review
Sept. 27 – Mary @ The Book Swarm – Guest Post & Review


HarperTeen is offering one Cuddlebuggery reader a finished copy of Poisoned Apples!

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Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

16 Responses to “Review: Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann”

  1. Mona

    Wow I love the two poems that I got to read! They have a serious message and are funny at the same time. Plus, poems are really all I have time to read with school. Thanks for the great review!

  2. Ilex

    Steph, I completely understand about being dense to poetry — so am I. Which is one reason I quit trying to write it. 😉

    Everything I’ve seen about this book makes me really want to read it! Even if I do know some of it will go right over my head, too.

  3. Kelly L.

    THERE ARE ILLUSTRATIONS IN THIS ONE?! I never knew that! Well, on to the to be read list you go!
    I’ve never read any poems that really stayed with me, so that’s another reason to add Poisoned Apples to my TBR.
    Kelly L. recently posted…Life Of A Blogger: ClothingMy Profile

  4. Ashley D.

    Honestly, the only poems I could ever stand to read were by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, but this has definitely caught my attention. I’ll definitely be adding this to my TBR list.

  5. Lauren at Bookmark Lit

    I wrote a semester-long research paper on this EXACT topic in college! I discussed how fairy tales and popular culture perpetuate gender norms and stereotypes from a young age. Some artists out there make installations and sculptures that help turn these fairy tales upside down. Look into Kiki Smith if you aren’t familiar with her art!
    Lauren at Bookmark Lit recently posted…Review: Just Like FateMy Profile

  6. Lauren Harvey

    This sounds so good! Really want to check this out since I’ve read your post. I need this on my TBR list now! I love reading good poetry every now and then. I think this would be an awesome addition to my book shelf.

  7. Erin

    These poems are great, and I like the idea of retellings in poems. Definitely interesting and unique and something I would like to read.

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