Raise your hand if you have an evil stepmother. Alice, Reena and Molly all do. For various reasons, each girl finds herself at a posh boarding school in rural Massachusetts and each tries her best to pretend she doesn’t come from a messed-up, broken family. When they find each other, they discover they no longer have to suffer alone or in silence, and the Poison Apples are born.
Yes, I have a stepmother. Yes, there were times I thought she was evil, especially during the early adjustment period. So I could definitely relate to the Poison Apples.
The book is narrated by all three teens in alternating chapters and divided roughly into three sections: the introduction of the characters and their stepmothers, arrival at boarding school, and the revenge plot over Thanksgiving break.
I loved the first section and Alice’s situation was pretty familiar. Her mother died of cancer and then she spent a couple of years moping around with her father. When her father meets someone new, she sincerely wants him to be happy. But when they announce they are getting married, Alice is shell-shocked. Stepmother-to-be R. convinces Alice’s father to sell his house and move into their own place – and Alice isn’t welcome. Instead, her father breaks the news that she’s to be sent to boarding school:
“Alice,” Dad said suddenly. “You’re not going to live with me and R. It doesn’t make sense.”
I stared into Dad’s eyes. Dad, I tried to silently implore him. I don’t want to freak out right now. I don’t want to give R. another reason to hate me. I don’t want you to think I’m a bad daughter. Just. Please. Don’t. Make. Me. Go.
The weird thing was, I could tell Dad was also trying to tell me something with his eyes. He was silently begging me to be okay with this. To not make him guilty. To not make him feel like he was marrying a psychopath who wanted him to send his daughter away… (p. 17-18)
Reena and Molly’s evil stepmothers come courtesy of divorce: Reena’s story is outrageously hilarious (it involves yoga and a penguin) and Molly’s is unfair and sad (it involves a lot of unpaid babysitting and a mental institution).
The boarding school section is peppered with fun wicked stepmother anecdotes and appearances but drags a bit when it veers off to explore other topics such as Reena’s crush on the English teacher.
And the end. Well, the end may surprise you! I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a stepmother or is a stepmother. Or anyone who just likes reading about stepmothers for that matter.
The Poison Apples is now available in paperback.
Fun Fact: The UK cover (the black one) was the first one I saw, and it made me really want the book. Which cover do you like better?