Reading level: Young Adult *
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 13, 2008)
Source of book: Review copy from publisher
In Christina Meldrum's debut novel that was just released this week, fifteen-year-old Aslaug has been isolated from society by her eccentric and haunted mother. She doesn't even know who her father is, and her mother has never revealed his identity to anyone. In fact, she has claimed that Aslaug was an immaculate conception, a claim that plays a pivotal role in the book.
Even though Aslaug's been isolated, her mother has given her an education that pales in comparison to her peers. She's fluent in Greek, well-versed in ancient runes, and knows how to use local herbs and plants for nutritional and medicinal purposes. In fact, when Aslaug's cancer-ridden mother dies of a jimsonweed overdose, Aslaug is a suspect in her murder. Jimsonweed, also known as madapple, can help ease pain, but too much can kill someone.
After her mother's death, Aslaug finds an aunt and two cousins who live in a nearby town who take her in. Aslaug soon discovers that this family has its demons, and she ends up being caught in a dark and twisted plot that eventually ends up with Aslaug being on trial for murder.
Christina Meldrum's technique and gripping plot make this book one of the best I've read this year. The book switches back and forth between Aslaug's trial and her story leading up to the trial. Meldrum, a former litigator, actually began writing this book when she was still a litigator, and her background in the legal system makes Aslaug's trial seem very believable.
Through the haunting plot, she also reveals a vast knowledge of botany, herbology, science, and religion. Aslaug is a likable character who evokes empathy from the reader. Take this passage for example:
"...our house was a prison, but a palace, too: at times it spiraled deep into the earth, and deep into the sky, depending on Mother's mood. I see that now. Life was a revolving mystery, sometimes terrifying, sometimes maddening. But always provocative. Interesting. And although its meaning seemed beyond my grasp, it never seemed meaningless" (page 211).
The suspense continues to build in the book until the very end when the truth behind the murders and more is revealed. I couldn't put this book down, and I recommend this for mature teens and adults because of the language and mature subject matter. However, without this, the twisted characters wouldn't have been believable and the bizarre plot wouldn't have been effectively executed. I sincerely hope this isn't Meldrum's last novel.
*contains mature situations and language
What Other Bloggers are Saying:
Booktopia: "Christina Meldrum has written a devastating, gut-wrenching, compelling and thoughtful story....The characters are all broken but fierce, and I found myself loving and hating them in equal measure." (read more...)
Reading Rants: "This brilliant, densely written amalgamation of botany, religion, murder mystery, courtroom drama and dark family secrets is the twisted brainchild of newbie author Christina Meldrum. Now, I read a LOT of YA fiction, and this one stopped me dead in my tracks with its utter bizarreness." (read more...)
Miss Print: "Although “Madapple” is thin on actual action, it’s still a page turner that left me anxious to see how it would all turn out." (read more...)
If you've reviewed Madapple, leave a comment with your link, and I'll post it here.