Book Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Hepperman

I loved poetry as a teenager, but it’s rare to find a collection that I feel confident recommending to Real Actual Teens today. Then I read this kick-ass, thought-provoking, feminist collection of poems inspired by fairy tale tropes, and I was blown away.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Hepperman 
Published:September 23rd 2014 by Greenwillow Books/Harper
Source: ARC from publisher
ISBN: 9780062289575
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

Genre: fairy tales, retellings, poetry

SynopsisOnce upon a time…
you were a princess,
or an orphan.
A wicked witch,
fairy godmother,
prom queen,
team captain,
Big Bad Wolf,
Little Bo Peep.
But you are more than just a hero or
a villain, cursed or charmed. You are
everything in between.
You are everything.

In fifty poems Christine Heppermann places fairy tales side by side with the modern teenage girl. Powerful and provocative, deadly funny and deadly serious, this collection is one to read, to share, to treasure, and to come back to again and again.

poisoned apples

My thoughts: This collection has been described as feminist retellings of fairy tales, but it is more than that. It takes the tropes and images of fairy tales, and uses them as a jumping off point for a modern version of life as a teenage girl. Like The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, which mined fairy tales for their latent violence and sexuality, to produce new stories, Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, uses the archetypes and familiar elements of fairy tales to dissect the beauty myth and the double standards of female sexuality. These brief, incisive verses capture what it means to be a young woman.

I wish so much for my teenage self to have been able to read this book. After a steady diet of Disney growing up, it would have been refreshing and enlightening to read these subversive poems. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I really started to discover stories where the princesses were also the heroes. While I enjoyed many of these poems, which were sometimes playful and witty, sometimes darker, bordering on disturbing, I know that reading them as a teenager would have been a much more powerful experience.

Though short, these 50 poems are layered and complex enough to generate lots of discussion. This would be the perfect selection for a book club.

Recommended for fans of: Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ronald Koertge

Second opinions:

Liz at A Chair, a Fireplace, a Teacozy: “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.”

Hey Library Girl: “Blending stunning photographs with sparse, haunting poems, Heppermann is unafraid to confront the struggles teenage girls face in today’s world.  These poems are angry, raw, and cut deep.  There’s much to unpack here in each poem: the searing social commentary, the urge for freedom, the frustration with the limitations place on girls.”

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Hepperman

  1. I enjoyed this collection a lot and thought the photos added a really nice touch. Part of me also wished the collection had been a bit longer though or done a bit more as so many of the poems had overlapping themes (particularly coming back to body image).

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