A Fierce and Subtle Poison
By Michael Berry,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Teens will enjoy mix of magical realism and mystery.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Set in Puerto Rico, A Fierce and Subtle Poison vividly describes the island and makes use of Caribbean folklore.
People can change for the better and learn to take care of others in need.
Positive Role Models
Lucas, the protagonist of A Fierce and Subtle Poison, is not especially likable at the beginning of the novel. He's privileged, arrogant, and careless with the female tourists he seduces. But as he becomes more involved with Isabel and her family secrets, he finds a well of decency within himself, which allows him to put the needs of others ahead of his own.
Violence & Scariness
Young girls are kidnapped and found drowned, but those events are not described in detail. Lucas has a minor scuffle with one of his friends. Two violent deaths occur.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lucas enjoys picking up tourist girls and meeting them for romantic rendezvous. He and Marisol share a few romantic embraces, but most of the details are left to the reader's imagination.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Swearing is sprinkled lightly throughout. "Hell," "damn," "bulls--t," and "s--t" are used about a dozen times each. "F--k" is used once or twice.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lucas and his buddies get drunk on occasion, but their exploits are more implied than shown. Isabel's father shows up drunk in one scene.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Samantha Mabry's A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a fantasy-tinged thriller set in modern-day Puerto Rico. It involves the disappearances of teen girls and a secret curse. There are a few scenes of violence -- a fight between friends, a deliberate poisoning -- but they're not particularly disturbing. Swear words are sprinkled lightly across the text, from multiple uses of "hell" and "damn" to a handful of instances of "f--k" and "s--t." Seventeen-year-old Lucas Knight seduces tourists and drinks alcohol with his buddies, but these exploits are generally not described in detail.
Where to Read
There aren't any parent reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the Story?
Seventeen-year-old Lucas Knight is used to summering in Puerto Rico with his hotel-developer father, but he has never been able to solve the riddle of Isabel, the neighbor girl who lives in a tropical garden and is said to be cursed with a deadly touch. On the day his latest girlfriend, Marisol, disappears, Lucas begins to receive messages at his hotel room from Isabel. Gradually, he's drawn into her world of secrets, especially when another young girl goes missing. Soon, Lucas is battling for his own life, even as a storm bears down upon the island.
Is It Any Good?
Like a gathering tropical storm, this offbeat thriller crackles with suspense, depending more on mood than on action to keep readers turning pages. With A FIERCE AND SUBTLE POISON, debut novelist Samantha Mabry conjures up an unusual mystery, mixing in elements of magical realism to her tale of missing girls and deadly family secrets. The main character, Lucas Knight, is not especially sympathetic at the start, but he gradually reveals his better qualities as he's pushed to unravel the mystery of the vanished girls.
The novel's climax is powerful and emphatic. There's little chance of a sequel, and it's impressive that Mabry has accomplished so much in a stand-alone volume.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how class and wealth are portrayed in books, in movies, and on TV. How does belonging to a wealthy family shape Lucas' outlook and actions?
Why do people make up stories about strangers? How do these narratives help people deal with uncertainty?
How does Lucas treat the female tourists he meets in San Juan? How does his attitude about them change over the course of the novel?
- Author: Samantha Mabry
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
- Publication date: April 12, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: January 27, 2020
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Read
Our Editors Recommend
Romantic Fantasy Books for Teens
Thriller Books for Teens
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate