cover image The Poison Diaries

The Poison Diaries

Maryrose Wood with Jane Northumberland, HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-180236-2

Based on a concept by the duchess of Northumberland, Wood (The Mysterious Howling) tells a passionate story of love, betrayal, and loquacious plants in this unique, slightly bizarre tale, first in a planned trilogy. Sheltered 16-year-old Jessamine lives with her domineering apothecary father, Thomas, in an austere cottage near an abandoned castle in late 18th-century England. Frequently left alone while her father journeys to London, Jessamine is thrilled when Weed, a taciturn teenage orphan, shows up. Weed has a vast knowledge of plants, which Jessamine learns comes from his ability to communicate with them. A sweet romance between Weed and Jessamine is threatened by Thomas’s desire for Weed to teach him about the poisonous plants in his garden. The story, slow at first, accelerates when Wood makes it apparent that Jessamine’s father is connected to her grave and sudden illness. The final chapters are a bit disjointed, as the first-person narration jumps between Jessamine, Weed, and the slyly evil Prince Oleander plant. Still, Wood does a marvelous job of creating heart-wrenching decisions for her characters and portraying a doomed romance reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)