The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood, based on a concept by the Duchess of Northumberland (Published by Balzer + Bray, a division of HarperTeen, July 20, 2010)
Sixteen-year-old Jessamine Luxton lives with her father, an apothecary, in the cottage at Hulne Abbey, not far from Alnwick Castle, in late 18th century England. Her mother died when she was young and since then she has grown up in the isolated cottage. Jessamine is interested in her father’s work growing plants but he will not allow her to assist him for fear the poisonous plants will harm her. Instead her days are filled with the work of housekeeping and growing the herb and vegetable gardens.
Jessamine’s life changes when a mysterious orphan boy named Weed is brought to the cottage by a stranger who thinks Jessamine’s father will be interested in Weed’s abilities, as he seems to have some strange knowledge of herbs or healing. Weed is close in age to Jessamine, and she is determined to get to know this strange boy. A romance begins to develop between the two; however, Jessamine soon becomes dangerously ill with a mysterious ailment and Weed must use his special knowledge of plants to try and find a way to save her.
The Poison Diaries is the first in a trilogy and as such it ends rather abruptly and somewhat unsatisfactorily as a result. This isn’t really a book that can stand on its own, I think you will need to read the whole series and I’m disappointed the next book won’t be out for a year since I really want to know what happens. I really enjoyed the first half of the novel, and reading about Jessamine and Weed’s growing relationship. Later on however the book does get very dark and some of the decisions made by characters are morally questionable. I did love the creepy gothic historical setting, it was very atmospheric, and the plot was definitely something very different, and for that reason I would recommend this book to readers who love unusual young adult fantasy novels. This is definitely a book that stands out, and in a good way in my opinion, from all the endless young adult paranormals about werewolves and vampires. However, if you really hate cliffhangers, you may want to wait until the entire series is available before reading.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.