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The Poison Apples is a Young Adult novel written by Lily Archer.
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This uses the idea of fairy tale stepmothers and applies it to three teenage girls in modern times. One is named Alice whose stepmother marries her widowed father, another is an Indian girl named Reena whose father marries her young yoga instructor and divorces his first wife, and the last is named Molly whose father divorces her mentally unstable mother and marries a waitress working at his diner. All three girls are sent to a boarding school and share their stepmother issues with each other. They concoct a plan to get revenge and destroy something precious to their stepmothers.

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This novel provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear:
    • The grisly reality of parents remarrying, either leaving their partners for various reasons, finding a new love or suffering a Hollywood Midlife Crisis.
    • Molly during the holidays runs away after learning that her mother escaped the mental institution, and doesn't know what to do. It's the only time Candy has a Pet the Dog moment when she drives out into the snow to find Molly.
  • Alliterative Name: Molly Miller.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Invoked Trope. Chock load of them:
    • All of the stepmothers. Are all of them really evil or are they misunderstood by their stepdaughters?
  • Big Brother Instinct: Molly displays some big sister instinct for Spencer, especially when Candy allows her to walk around in high heels.
  • Black Sheep: Molly would be considered this since her little sister thought she was spoiled when she really doesn't, she was unintentionally insensitive to her stepmother's emotions, and she was the only one who didn't accept Candy.
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  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Alice, Reena and possibly Molly, and Kristen.
  • Boarding School: The three main characters meet at a fancy private boarding school in Massachusetts.
  • Comforting the Widow: Alice believes that R did this for her father.
  • Cool Big Bro: Pradeep for Reena.
  • Epic Fail: Reena when she tries to steal Shanti's penguin. Lampshaded at the end of the book.
  • Evil Redhead: Subverted with Kristen. She starts off as Molly's rival for Pradeep's affections, but they bond in the end when she reveals her parents are getting a divorce.
  • Extraverted Nerd: Molly is a huge nerd (her favourite book is the Oxford English Dictionary) and average-looking but she isn't shy, tends to take over conversations when no one asks her to and is less affected by her Friendless Background than Alice (who at least had some friends, if not close ones).
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Shanti Shruti (born as Amanda Weed in Skokie, Illinois) loves India and everything and anything related to it. Much more than her husband, who is actually from India, or her step-kids, who have Indian heritage. She studied in India, became a yoga teacher, changed her name to an Indian name, had a big Indian wedding even though her husband was ambivalent about it, wears a bright pink sari as casual everyday wear and decorates her entire house with Indian decorations. And she names her penguin Ganesh.
  • Friendless Background: Molly doesn't have any friends and has been pretty much ignored by her classmates since starting high school. Alice is more popular but doesn't have any close friends, being everyone's second or third best friend.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Molly's little sister is named Spencer, but she participates in girlish sports like baton twirling and wears girly accessories.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Shanti Shruti is this. She tries to be a good stepmother to her husband's children, but they resent her for her marrying their middle-aged father.
    • Subverted with Candy. She has bleached blonde hair and she's nasty to Molly.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Alice is a type B example, being lonely because she doesn't have any close friends. She is very upset when, for a while, she thinks that Molly only befriended her because Alice's father is her favourite author. Once Reena founds the Poison Apples, though, she quickly grows into best friends with the other two.
  • In with the In Crowd: Reena states she has always found it easy to become popular by befriending the right people. Within days of starting at boarding school she becomes not only popular in her year but hangs out with the most popular people two years above her. She realises she's not so eager to be in anymore when Jamie Vanderheep pushes her out the window into a tree when she's scared to climb.
  • Hollywood Midlife Crisis: What Reena's father suffers; it's implied this is why he divorces his wife.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Alice is the daughter of two famous novelists, grew up in Brooklyn Heights, wears cool clothes and is described as beautiful but never had any close friends, being the second or third best friend of most of the people at her school.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Reena. She is good-looking, rich and finds it very easy to be popular. Despite this, she never bullies unpopular kids like Molly and even though she and Alice get off on the wrong foot, she doesn't do anything mean besides avoiding Alice. Her best friend from her previous school, Katie, is stated to be this, too.
  • Love Triangle: Molly and Kristen both like Pradeep and don't like each other because of it.
  • May–December Romance:
    • Reena's father is in his fifties while Shanti Shruti is somewhere in her twenties, which, according to Reena, is about ten years away from her age.
    • Reena herself develops feelings for one of her teachers. One night, she puts on a seductive outfit and tries to seduce him, but is rejected instead.
  • Nice Girl: Alice is this, choosing to put her dad's happiness before her own feelings by lying about how she feels about boarding school and generally just wanting to make him happy. She's the only one of the girls to make an effort with her stepmother in the beginning. She's also easily the nicest one of the three of them, lacking Reena's Brutal Honesty and Molly's occasionally mean inner monologue. She's the most hesitant of the three to enact the revenge plans (and isn't involved in coming up with them in the first place) and it takes the most to push her over the edge into being unfriendly.
  • Not So Different: Alice prepares to sabotage R's stage performance, only to find R crying in her dressing room after finding out her mother has died. She can't bring herself to do the deed, having lost her mother as well and knowing what it's like to endure that pain.
  • Obliviously Evil: Shanti seems to be this. She is nice to Reena and Pradeep but seems a bit too into Indian culture for either of their comforts. On the other hand, she encouraged their father to divorce his housewife, who has no job skills, and didn't consider how they would feel about him marrying a woman close to their age. Reena hates how she's caught in the middle.
  • Only Sane Man: The three main characters. They think they see through their stepmothers and know who they really are.
  • Off to Boarding School: Partially subverted. The girls were sent there either to get away from their families or because their stepmothers went there when they were younger.
  • Pet the Dog: Candy drives out into the snow on learning that Molly has run away, hearing that her mother has escaped the mental institution and comforts Molly.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Shanti isn't even Indian; she's a white yoga instructor who nevertheless adopts an Indian name and culture.
  • Scholarship Student: Molly won a full scholarship to boarding school, in contrast to Alice and Reena who both come from wealthy backgrounds.
  • School Forced Us Together: The three main characters have hardly anything in common besides having Wicked Stepmothers: Alice is a Lonely Rich Kid from Brooklyn Heights, Reena is a Lovable Alpha Bitch from Beverly Hills and Molly is an Extraverted Nerd from the middle of nowhere. What brings them together? Boarding School.
  • Second Year Protagonist: Alice, Molly and Reena are 15 and in sophomore year (though they are all new at their Boarding School). We never hear anything about the freshmen at the school but Reena is shown to be popular by being invited to hang out with a group of cool older students. Alice's eventual boyfriend Jamal is considered cool and unattainable for being older (the same goes for Molly's crush Pradeep - Reena's brother).
  • The Social Expert: It only takes Reena a few days to become one of the most popular girls not only in her year but the whole school, with the most popular senior guy crushing on her. She easily reads everyone in the room when hanging out with the cool kids and mentions that she has always been good at making the rights friends to become popular.
  • Status Quo Is God: The girls are stuck with their stepmothers. With that said, they agree to stay friends and keep meeting.
  • Teacher's Pet: Molly is this, wanting nothing more than to discuss her favourite books with her Humanities teacher when no one else in the class really cares, to the extent that he has to shut her down because she's talked about the topic so much already.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Reena has a crush on the girls' Humanities teacher - or David, as she likes to refer to him. She is 15, he is 32. Molly and Alice think it's gross, Reena thinks they're immature. He thinks it's gross, too, turning her down and telling her even if he didn't have a girlfriend he is far too old for her.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The idea behind this whole novel. R, Alice's stepmother, resented her when Alice reacted negatively towards her father announcing their engagement. Shanti Shruti, Reena's blonde Caucasian stepmother with a fascination on Indian culture, seems nice and treats her stepchildren like they were her own. Candy Lamb, Molly's stepmother, is truly wicked. She mocked Molly's mother who is a mental institution and was trying to get Molly to come back home because of her pregnancy.
  • Worst. Whatever. Ever!: The girls at the end call Reena the worst penguin-napper ever.

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