Thursday, February 4, 2010


Madapple by Christina Meldrum (NY: Knopf, 2008).

This highly fascinating and unusual novel alternates between two perspectives: that of the court room trial of 16-year-old Aslaug and Aslaug's biographical narrative. Meldrum skillfully weaves an illusive tale of intrigue and family drama. While the trial shows some of the "facts" behind the trial, Aslaug's narrative muddies the waters, showing how "facts" conceal underlying truths, or even dispel the possibility of any truth. Aslaug's mother Maren kept Aslaug isolated for years, telling her she was the product of a virgin birth. Aslaug grows up in a world of nature and science, learning much about plants and mythology. The eponymous madapple, or jimson weed, casts a mysterious veil over the plot as well, its hallucinogenic and toxic properties muddling the truth. After her mother dies, Aslaug finds and then lives with her aunt and two cousins. In the end, Aslaug is accused of murdering her aunt and one of her cousins with the circumstances slowly revealed in both the court transcript and the narrative.

Grades 7&up. Sexual situations, drugs, teen pregnancy.

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