Jessamine Luxton is the daughter of an apothecary in 18th century Northumberland. Her life is like a dark fairytale: her father is cold and aloof, but he cures and heals the sick. She helps him with his work, however there is one place she isn't allowed to go: the locked garden where he keeps his poisons.
One day, her father receives a visitor who comes from a mental asylum. The man brings a boy named Weed with him, who he claims is crazy. He also claims that Weed somehow cured all of his patients (while making the townspeople surrounding the institution crazy), probably with some kind of poison. Since no crazies is bad for business, he foists weed on Jessamine's father.
It becomes immediately clear that Weed has a knowledge of herblore that probably surpasses even her father's, but despite pressing, Weed refuses to talk about his mysterious connection with plants. Being both attractive (beautiful green eyes, yo) and mysterious, it seems a given that he'll end up being a love interest--and he does, in spades.
I have to give THE POISON DIARIES props for how it approaches plants and medicine. Most of the YA I read is so superficial: it was great to happen upon a book that goes into some pretty damn thoughtful commentary on the relationship between poisons and medicines, and life and death. The writing was also gorgeous: spare but sometimes incredibly evocative. And there is magic in here, too.
I couldn't help but notice that The Duchess of Northumberland (Jane Percy) is listed as a co-author for this title. I thought that was the author/publisher being "cute", but then I looked up her Goodreads profile (she's listed as a Goodreads author) and I'm starting to think it's legit. Apparently the current Duchess has created a "poison garden" at Alwick castle (the castle where some of the Harry Potter films were done), for the purpose of educating the public about both the usefulness and the dangers of poisonous plants. So maybe she was a consultant for the book? If so, AWESOME.
Fans of Julie Kagawa and Maria V. Snyder will like this I think, and so will fans of TWILIGHT. It's reminiscent of many YA novelists but still manages to stand on its own.
4.5 out of 5 stars.