poisoned apples book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

In her collection, Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, Christine Heppermann has an uncanny ability of taking dark, behind closed door secrets, turning them on their head, and presenting them back at the reader as something normal. Poisoned Apples is a collection of fairy tales and nursery rhymes rewritten with modern twisting jabs of reality.

Within her collection, Heppermann challenges the norms of suburban society. These are not tales for the faint of heart; they contain no cartoon caricatures of happily ever after, but are grim rhymes that smack of everyday reality for some. In “Never-Ending Story”, Heppermann delves into the stark, obsessive-compulsive reality of anorexia. Later, in “The First Anorexic”, she displays the intoxicating psyche of self-punishment.

Heppermann returns frequently to the image of the wolf in the woods or in the dark, only the wolf is not always the most frightening creature out there and sometimes the wolf is ourselves. She prods in several poems, such as “A Shape Magazine” and “Blow Your House In”, at media derived images that compel society to fit a certain body shape or else we cannot belong to the group. Yet there are also poems that render a newer uplifting view of what can be, such as a revisit of the miller’s daughter from the Grimm’s Rumpelstiltskin and how the miller’s daughter’s life could be her own if she just said “no” in the poem “Retelling”.

Poisoned Apples is a fascinating collection of visual ideas. It is dark, tantalizing, spooky, rich, and all too real. Hepperman has created a unique collection of raw images that poke and prod at a reader’s tender sentimentality for growing up in an imagined perfect world. Poisoned Apples reminds the reader that some things that appear normal maybe should be looked at again. Her cunning words and razor sharp wit reflect a hyper-reality in which the abnormal and grotesque appear ordinary and familiar.

I chose to read Poisoned Apples because I was intrigued with the concept of rewriting old standards to reflect modern norms in poetic verse. Heppermann’s collection gripped my attention and held on showing me society’s modern norms with a stark freshness. I was not at all disappointed with Heppermann’s Poisoned Apples. This small book yielded a satisfying and provocative read. Heppermann’s poems and images linger on in one’s thoughts and do not easily fade away.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.