Monday, May 23, 2016

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

25810644This review was written by: B
Received: Publisher
Publication Date of Book: April 12, 2016
Pages: 288
Stars: 4/5
 

Official Summary:
Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl -- Isabel, the one who 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.

My Thoughts:
Isabel was right -- my curiosity always got the best of me.  I kept barging into her house.  I ran after ghosts in the rain even though I knew it made no sense, but sometimes I had no use for sense.  I collected insults because I thought the more I had, the closer I would get to invincibility.  I was developing a habit of reaching out to touch things -- like strange girls and strange-smelling plants with purple petals -- that I was sure would hurt me because no matter how severe, the resulting pain was always worth the attempt. 
~A Fierce and Subtle Poison

 A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a story about a boy who's drawn to danger, a girl who's destined to be dangerous, and an island that will either bring them together or tear their very lives apart.  Alluringly written and beautifully crafted, this is a rare book that will quickly dig deep under the skin as you furiously try to unravel the mysteries that are Lucas and Isabel.

Mabry, as a debut author, knocked me off my feet!  She is clearly talented, and anyone who picks up this book will easily see that.  In fact, there are plenty of noteworthy points to make on her new YA novel, such as her ability to pen exotic settings.  With only words as her arsenal, she seamlessly illustrated beautiful, breathtaking scenes that depicted a tropical Puerto Rico.  However, like her characters, there were layers that were explored one by one.  On one hand, there were the busy market streets, teeming with people, which Lucas frequented with several of his native friends.  On the other hand, there were the luxurious resorts and hotels being constructed for tourists, which he knew about all too well, courtesy of his father, which only destroyed the natural beauty of the surrounding area in the eyes of the islanders.  And yet, there was also a sense of poverty and loneliness in the abandonment of the forgotten villages and buildings left in ruins, but this is not where Puerto Rico ended.  The wild, gorgeously untamed parts of Puerto Rico are not to be forgotten, for they are waiting, untouched by man, thriving, and hiding what others want to keep secret.

Mabry also invented a set of characters that will immediately bewitch all of those who happen to come across this written marvel.  I thought that it was brilliant of her to use Lucas's point of view, a young man who was an outsider to Puerto Rico and who could never truly be accepted by the locals.  His outlook established one that could never have been accomplished if not for his foreign, alien position, which was untainted from living most of his year in the States.  Otherwise, his eyes would not have seen everything as new or fascinating.  On the other hand, he was able to connect with the island in ways that his father never could, believing in the wild tales and superstitions of the old señoras.  Lucas was the social outcast and hated by many because of his family's money and his inability to blend in because he was not part of native's culture.  However, this unshakable label of outcast never stopped Lucas from doing as he pleased.  It also never interfered with his seemingly passionate desire to help people, whether he thought them to be alive or dead, an aspect that I hung on to and admired.

My favorite part of the the book was definitely Lucas and Isabel's connection and relationship to their family. Both of them had absent mothers who decided to disappear from their lives altogether, leaving behind their fathers to raise and protect them in whatever ways they saw fit, and memories that can turn bitter in a heartbeat.  Perhaps this contributed to the two's evident loneliness.  They were both broken.  At times, it almost seemed as if their solitude was tangible, actually weighing on my own heart at times.  I truly admire an author when they possess the ability to make me connect with characters in such a strong way as Mabry did.

The last quarter of the book was action packed and heart stopping as Lucas and Isabel struggle to face the demons forced onto their path.  However, the final conclusion created a couple of issues for me.  I love resolution, but A Fierce and Subtle Poison was more open-ended than I had expected.  In my experience, though, books like these usually are.  Readers will be able to interpret as they wish, and I know that this may aggravate a few people.  Nevertheless, I hope that this does not discourage readers.  I hope that you take the dive into this story of a boy drawn into loving danger, a strange dream girl with green skin and grass for hair, and the boy's desire to break the curse put on her!

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