“Poisonous” by Allison Brennan is a very powerful story. The novel delves into very relevant issues from cyber bullying to social media’s role within people’s lives. The author makes a good point about how social media makes it easier for someone to say mean things without any repercussions. This intense plot also focuses on psychological issues involving a mentally challenged character and how family dynamics play into divorce.
The plot has a cyber bully, Ivy, falling off a cliff; was she pushed or was it accidental? Maxine Revere, an investigative reporter that works on cold cases, is asked to find the truth about the fall. A mentally challenged 18-year-old, stepbrother to Ivy, is suspected by her mother of being the murderer. Max sees immediately he is a gentle giant who loved his sister in spite of her cruelty that caused a peer to commit suicide. With a huge list of suspects, Max must pursue the truth and allow justice to prevail.
Being a mother of five, Brennan realized “I did not grow up with social media. In the 1970s and ’80s I could make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. I knew the stupid thing I did was not going to be around forever or go viral. Today it is on the Internet for everybody to remember forever. It comes down to our kids never being able to say or do anything they might regret, with the possibility their lives might be ruined forever. Teenagers always make mistakes, which is why I love writing about them or young adults. My family has a rule now because of what happened a few years ago. We had gone out to dinner and all my five kids were either on video games or texting on their phones. ‘I said that’s it.’ I told them ‘keep it in your pocket or I will put it in my purse.’ After that when we went out to dinner once a month we were actually able to have a conversation.”
Brennan has a way of writing characters that readers care about. She allows people to feel certain emotions from the printed words. What is done beautifully is how she has the readers rooting for Max to solve the case. Not for the victim Ivy, but for Tommy. Ivy is seen as a “mean girl” that took joy in exposing her peers secrets and flaws through a gossip website. Tommy, a sweet and kind boy, is genuine, honest, and hoping to get his old life back.
She noted to blackfive.net, “Parents also make inappropriate comments or are always texting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people “unfriend” you because of the way you think or the way you vote. We can’t agree on every single issue. With social media people can say things or be offensive because they can distance themselves. Children emulate their parents. I decided to write about bullying because of a local tragic case of a young boy killing himself after being bullied online.”
While Max is still brash, outspoken, intelligent, independent, and tenacious, she is less impulsive, more sensitive, and is learning to not always say what she thinks. Through her eyes, readers see Tommy as a heart-wrenching personality and cheer Max on for caring and wanting to protect him. An interesting point made was the similarities in personalities between Max and two of the characters: Tommy and his stepbrother Austin. Both Tommy and Max found lies devastating, wanting only to be told the truth, while Austin was protective, and unforgiving for the circumstances his parents placed him in.
“Poisonous” has a fast paced plot. This fascinating story about dysfunctional families and relevant issues of today makes for a great read.