A Fierce and Subtle Poison: YA Review

Book Review, Young Adult Books
A Fierce and Subtle Poison

A Fierce and Subtle Poison

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Age range: 14 and up | Hardcover: 288 pages | Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers (April 12, 2016)


About A Fierce and Subtle Poison:

In this stunning debut, legends collide with reality when a boy is swept into the magical, dangerous world of a girl filled with poison.

Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the senoras 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.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison beautifully blends magical realism with a page-turning mystery and a dark,  starcrossed romance–all delivered in lush, urgent prose.


Find the Book:

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Kobo


My Thoughts on A Fierce and Subtle Poison:

Lucas spends every summer in Puerto Rico with his land developer father. While his dad is busy finding new places to build luxury hotels, Lucas spends his time with his friends, flirting with girls, and learning the superstitions that prevail on the island. When his new girlfriend washes up dead on the beach, Lucas’s goes hunting for answers.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a story about a curse, a boy, and a lot of disappeared girls. Lucas is a beautiful, complex character with many layers. He’s selfish, lazy, and unambitious. He can’t see past the present, and cares little for the girls’ hearts he constantly breaks. Even after stumbling over his dead girlfriend’s body, he’s hitting on another girl a few days later. On the other hand, he cares deeply for the island of Puerto Rico, desires the approval of the locals, and dislikes his father’s stuck-up and entitled attitude. He’s slightly obsessed with death, dreams, and folklore. He believes in the superstitions of the islanders and believes his own story somehow fits in with them.

Lucas falls asleep and has strange dreams a LOT. Almost every other page is dedicated to another dream. The use of dreams is overkill, but the writing is gorgeous. I love Lucas as a character because he is a complex, believable person. I like his insatiable curiosity, his desire to learn, and his desire to love. He loves people in different ways – because they are people, because they are unique, and because they need to be loved.

It was an interesting read, for sure. I would recommend this book if you like beautifully written stories with interesting characters and oodles of superstitions.

Content: Language (some f-bombs) and sensuality.

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. I was under no obligation to review the book or write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.



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  • Reply
    Maria Behar
    May 1, 2016 at 5:10 am

    First of all, I apologize for the late comment back. I’ve been a little busy this week, too.

    This novel immediately reminded me of a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s titled “Rappaccini’s Daughter”. I remember reading it in high school. It’s really surprising that this is not mentioned in the synopsis.

    In both tales, there’s a garden, a girl who tends the plants, which have been grown and experimented with by her scientist father, and, of course, the girl is full of poison. In Mabry’s book, though, there’s also a murder mystery. That’s definitely an ingenious twist!

    From what you describe of Lucas, he’s not a very likable character, but hopefully he changes once he’s fallen in love with Isabel. I sure do hope this version (the original concept comes from Indian folklore, according to Wikipedia) has a happy ending! Hawthorne’s story does not.

    Here’s the Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rappaccini's_Daughter

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! 🙂

    • Reply
      Dena at Batch of Books
      May 2, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      Oooh, I’ve never read the short story, but that sounds interesting. The same thing happened to me when I read The Hunger Games. I thought, “this sounds an awful lot like the short story The Lottery.”

  • Reply
    Maria Behar
    May 1, 2016 at 5:11 am

    P.S. Also, thanks for commenting on my “Waiting On Wednesday” post last week!! <3 🙂

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