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The Posion Apples by Lily Archer

July 12, 2007
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cover of The Poison Apples by Lily ArcherQ: What do Alice Bingley-Beckerman from New York, New York, Reena Paruchuri from Beverly Hills, California, and Molly Miller from North Forest, Massachusetts have in common?

A: They all have evil stepmothers.

What they have in common is nothing to sneeze at. Alice’s stepmother R. has single handedly taken away her father and forced her to attend boarding school in the course of 3 months. Reena’s stepmother Shanti Shruti is a 25 year old blonde as blonde, white as white, yoga instructor who’s got some major identity issues. Reena and her brother Pradeep think she’s a little off the deep end with her maniacal love of Western influenced-Indian aesthetics. (Think here for you Hawaii kids fake tikis, ugly Aloha shirts, and coconut bras as being “Hawaiian.”) What’s worse is she’s enslaved a poor penguin in a million dollar terrarium, because she saw that movie documentary, while Reena’s mother has resorted to pawning her possessions to get by. Molly’s stepmother Candy Lamb has single handedly turned Molly’s whole family against her. She’s given the rest of the family and probably the rest of the town the impression that Molly thinks she’s better than all of them because she attends an elite boarding school nearby. Candy has even turned Molly’s younger sister Spencer against her. What’s worse is Molly’s real mother has checked herself into a mental institution after her divorce from Molly’s dad. Yes folks, these are indeed evil stepmothers as in the variety that you see in fairytales but, they are even more horrific because they are the type that you see in everyday life and the ones you have to interact with.

Trisha and I both got a big kick out of this book. I especially like Reena’s storyline when she describes her Indian wannabe stepmother who’s trying to be more Indian than the whole family. Here’s a little taste:

It’s hard to describe what we encountered in the foyer of what used to be our normal, all-American home. I guess it was the twenty-foot-tall wooden statue of Vishnu that caught my attention first. And I only found out it was Vishnu because I gasped and said: “What is that?” “Vishnu,” Shanti said, gliding out of the kitchen and smiling at us. “Don’t you recognize Vishnu? He’s one of the most famous Hindu gods.” I shook my head. “I don’t know any Hindu gods.”

“Wow,” I said to Dad and Shanti. “It’s very…” “Different!” she said cheerfully. I nodded. “Also…Indian. It’s very Indian.” Dad shot me a warning glance. “Yep,” Pradeep piped up. “It’s, like, more Indian than it was when four Indian people were living here.”

Reena is definitely the least tragic of all the characters and I adore her coolness and goofiness. There definitely seems to be sequel potential for this book and dare I say it might be even as big as the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. My only wish is that there’s a spin off book solely on Reena’s story.

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