Datura stramonium, ditch weed, thorn apple, devil's snare, mad hatter, jimsonweed...Madapple. A plant with dangerous levels of poison if ingested by humans or animals. A plant that can cause true hallucinations that cannot be distinguished from reality. A plant that can distort truth, cause coma, reek havoc. And it's the star of the book Madapple by Christina Meldrum.
Aslaug Hellig grew up with her brilliant but overbearing mother Maren, who believes Aslaug was born out of immaculate conception. Though Aslaug is highly intelligent, knowing multiple languages and advanced botany, she has seen little of the world and is clueless in society. When her mother dies with poison in her system, Aslaug's world is turned upside down, especially since she is the prime suspect of the murder. This situation forces Aslaug to seek out family she has never known, which ends up sending her life into even more chaos.
The story flows between the present day murder trial and the past events that led up to it. As the story slowly unravels, the truth about the Hellig family is fully revealed. This unusual book about a disturbed family unfolds beautifully in this striking novel, riddled with themes of mystery and mysticism; family drama and love; science and faith; religion and paganism; adolescence and incest; and the wonder of when your perception of reality isn't really true.
I really enjoyed the challenge this book offered, mainly because it was so well researched when it came to discussion of plants and religion. Though some readers may find all the legal writing and plant information a little too much, if readers stick with the book they will be rewarded with a great read! The ending seemed a little too-good-for-the-story but I did feel very satisfied after finishing this book.
Recommended for older teens of an advanced reading level, due to language, drug use, disturbing situations, and heavy botany, science, legal and religious dialogue. Read reviews and the first few chapters of the book through the author's website.