Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poison Apple Books

10 Titles:  The Dead End; Curiosity Killed the Cat; The Ghost of Christmas Past; Green-Eyed Monster; This Totally Bites...; Miss Fortune; Now You See Me; Midnight Howl; Her Evil Twin; The Ghoul Next Door

Authors:  Various, published by Scholastic

Rating:  0 stars out of 3 possible, "D" / "F"
             Not Recommended

Audience:  Middle School

Well, there's no chance of misinterpreting the tone and plot of this tween series.  It's clearly capitalizing on our culture's current obsession with monster myths and horror stories.  (My question is:  What's it doing in my 3rd grader's classroom?!)

Her Evil Twin begins with a common 7th grade theme:  Anna and Dory have been friends, like, for forever.  But now that they're in middle school, Anna wonders if Dory is too boring and immature for her.  Could Anna fit in with the cooler girls in class:  Jessamyn, Kima and Lauren?

Dory's an honest, sensible friend and she's pretty sure JK & L (The Jackals) aren't to be trusted.  They really plan to tease and bully Anna.

JK & L trick Anna into calling up a mirror spirit in the darkened school bathroom.  Everyone gets scared and deserts Anna, except for Dory.

Following this disturbing incident, Anna meets a mysterious stranger named Emma.  Emma seems like a good friend at first, but increasingly odd things happen when Emma is around.  Also troubling, Emma seems to get more and more controlling, angry and...creepy.  Anna's getting blamed for things she didn't do; Emma's stunts are risky and dangerous; Anna's friendship with Dory is completely fractured; someone's going to get hurt!

The story is well-constructed.  At first the reader is appalled with Anna's shallow desire to ditch Dory in favor of the "cool" girls.  Then the reader is applied at Emma's treatment of Anna and Anna's willingness to succumb to it in the name of "friendship."  Finally the reader is held in suspense while trying to define exactly who this "Emma" is.  Certainly, lessons are drawn about peer pressure and true friendship.

Unfortunately, the book is seriously creepy and would give more than a few kids nightmares.  The idea of pretending to call up a spirit, and then to actually have one appear and follow your every move is more than a little disturbing.

Anna is haunted by the confusion of Emma's existence:  Is Emma real, or is Anna's grasp of reality slipping?  Worse, is it all Anna's fault?

As you can see, multiple stressors result for the young reader:  mental illness?  split personality?  demons?  physical threats?

In a less-than-satisfying ending, Dory and Anna consider two options:

"I read somewhere about evil spirits that will latch on to a person.  Do you think that's what Emma was?"

"Anna was silent.  She'd been wondering about that.  Was Emma an evil spirit, or something Anna had accidentally wished into existence?  Anna didn't know.  What she did know was that Emma was drawn to her.  And if that was the case, how could Anna be sure she wouldn't come back?"

In fact, on the last page of the book Anna glances into a mirror and sees two eyes watching her!

How much greater is the security and hope we have as Christians!  The Bible is frank about what Satan can and cannot do, and frank about the power and strength we have in Christ.  (Colossians 1:13-14)

In This Totally Bites, the main character, Emma Rose, may or may not be a vampire.  But her Transylvanian Aunt Margo definitely is.

The plot moves between frightening scenes of vampire transformation and trite scenes of middle school squabbles.  Nothing terribly meaty here, nor insightful, or even entertaining.   Mainly, if you don't want your daughter drawn into Goth and vampire culture, don't start down this path!

Be sure not to let books like the Poison Apple Series (and possibly Scholastic's Rotten Apple and Candy Apple series as well) undermine your kids' confidence in who they are  in Christ.  (I John 4:4)

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