Common Sense Media says

Disturbing mystery tale with many mature themes.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

There are characters who treat others cruelly; who engage in incest, baby-stealing, forced adoptions, kidnapping, alcohol and drug use. The majority of the characters use religion or God as an excuse for their behavior.


A young teen girl is wrestled to the ground violently and tied up on a regular basis. A woman dies and her deformed body is described. A girl is suspected of murder. Two people die from poison and a church is set on fire.


A girl has sex with a boy and describes it, including penetration. Three teen girls have babies. A girl describes her body as it changes with puberty. There is a discussion of the parentage of a child and it's suggested she's a product of father-daughter incest.


Several f-bombs are dropped, "s--t" is also used, as well as other milder forms of swearing. The words are mainly used by a teen who is trying to shock her mother and others with her behavior.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alcohol and drug use is featured throughout, most of the substances are home-grown using various herbs and plants -- but, the effects are the same as any commercially made alcohol or street drug.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this creepy mystery is full of mature themes including teen pregnancy (there are three pregnant teens here), teen sex (fully described), incest, divine birth, controversial religious beliefs, and the usage of plants for medicinal and experimental purposes. A young teen girl is wrestled to the ground violently and tied up on a regular basis, and people die from poisoning.

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What's the story?

Aslaug Helig isn't sure about much of her past and is uncertain about her future. Her father is an unknown mystery her mother refused to solve. After her mother's death Aslaug learns she has relatives that may hold the secret to her origins. Could she be more divine than human?

Is it any good?


Strange. Disturbing. Detailed. Creepy. Poetic. Christina Meldrum's MADAPPLE is a rolling, twisting, odd mystery tale that wins on many levels. Obvious care has been given to researching botany, religious theology, and science. The novel switches with each chapter between Aslaug's telling of her version of the events and witness testimony at her murder trial. The switch teases and encourages readers to continue on Aslaug's winding journey.

Where the novel disappoints is in the sheer amount of detail. There is so much information -- plant descriptions, Latin classifications, and uses, along with overwhelming amounts of religious theory and a tangled family history that may or may not be incestuous, divine, or just dysfunctional. At times it feels as if Meldrum, a former litigator, has compiled her facts and figures and heaps them exhaustively on readers as if trying to convince them of the novel's validity. The novel has potential, but the potential gets lost in the details and ends a little too tidy. Parents may find much of the subject matter disturbing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the use of plants in medicines. How were some common remedies discovered? Why are plants so important in medicine? Families can also discuss differences in religious beliefs. What religions hold similar beliefs about the birth of prominent religious figures? What are the differences between the religions featured and your own?

Book details

Author:Christina Meldrum
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date:May 13, 2008
Number of pages:416
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
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Adult Written by YoLeo November 10, 2011


Awesome storyline. Abrupt yet satisfying ending. Never read anything quite like it. So read it!
What other families should know
Great messages
Parent of a 17 year old Written bytae99 May 11, 2010
I loved the book and would reccomend it for any one who is over the age of 13, because there is many adult themes
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Great role models


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