Cover of This Poison Heart, featuring a young Black woman surrounded by and wearing plants and flowers

About the Book

Title: This Poison Heart (This Poison Heart #1)
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Black Girl Magic
Bonus Factors: Plants, Adoptees
Relationship Status: Red Tulip

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

This cover gives me all of the heart eyes. It’s powerful and beautiful and enchanting. It’s a truly great mix of contemporary and fantastical. If you don’t want to pick up this book after seeing this cover, I don’t know if we can be friends.

The Deal: 

Briseis knows that she’s adopted; her moms have never kept that information from her. She also knows that she’s special: she has a very green thumb, to the point where plants respond to her as though they’re alive, she can grow them at a highly sped-up rate, bring them back from the brink of death, etc. She doesn’t know where she got this gift, but it comes in handy for her family business, a florist shop. She’s never pushed to find out more about her birth family, to see if the gift might come from them until she receives notice that her aunt has died and left her an estate in upstate New York.

When she and her moms move into the house and start exploring the grounds, Bri quickly realizes that her gift is definitely a familial one. She’s excited to delve into her history and how she can use her abilities for good, but not everyone is glad to see that her family line has continued—or they want to use her for not-so-innocent reasons.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Before she moves to Rhinebeck, Bri mentions that she’s recently lost both of her best friends, due in part to her opening up about her gifts. My heart broke for her; she’s an amazing girl with a super special talent, and anyone who turns their back on her is a dunce. Even before I knew the extent of her character, I knew that she was deserving of a BFF Charm. I just have to hope that she’d allow me, who has a very black thumb, into her circle of folks.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Shortly after moving in, Bri meets Marie, a young woman with a lot of secrets. (One of which pertains to the “young” part of young woman …) Bri’s immediately smitten with Marie’s beauty and confidence, and it seems like Marie is equally intrigued. Secrets, however, are never good to have, especially early on in a relationship.

Talky Talk: Black Girl Magic

At first glance, This Poison Heart leans more magical realism than full fantasy, but it becomes clear that is a fantasy book as the plot progresses, and it fully crosses the line at the end of the novel. Bayron deftly combines a contemporary plot with mythology, which both surprised and delighted me. I loved Bri’s gift from the start, but the addition of mythological elements made the book that much more magical. The mythology, too, although related to Greek myth, is unusual and intriguing, especially for someone like myself who has a deep love and nostalgia for these stories. (Anyone else still have their copy of D’Aulaire’s?)

Bayron’s worldbuilding is exemplary, too. She describes the various plants Bri comes across in detail and the settings all feel fleshed out and real. I’ve never been to Rhinebeck or Bri’s family estate (obvs), but I feel like I have been after reading this book. Her characters, too, are equally well-rounded; Bri’s moms, Mom and Mo, are hilarious and loving and truly great examples of quality YA parents.

Bonus Factor: Plants

I’m not good with plants. I have a few in my home that I’ve managed to keep alive for more than a year, which is a record for me. (Shout out to the Greg app, which reminds me to water when needed.) Bri is my complete opposite. I love how much she loves plants. And how much she knows about them too; she’s not content to just use her gift without knowledge of what she’s doing and how she can use what she grows, and that’s really commendable.

Bonus Factor: Adoptees

Paper doll family (mom, dad, and two children) with a red heart above them and a paper cut out house next to them

As far as I’m aware, there aren’t a ton of YA books that feature adoptees as main characters and even fewer in which the adoption isn’t a point of contention. Bri’s moms made it clear to her from a young age that she was adopted, and the adoption was open, so if Bri ever wanted to reach out, she could have. (Sadly, her birth mom died not too long after Bri was born, so she never really had the chance.) It’s great to see this different sort of inclusion.

Relationship Status: Red Tulip

I have a good feeling about us, Book. I liked you from the start, but as our time together drew to a close, I realized that my feelings were stronger than just like. I know this is sudden, but I can see us being something that lasts, like Bri’s flowers. (Not like my plants.) I hope you feel the same!

Literary Matchmaking

The Secret of a Heart Note

Stacey Lee’s novel also features a young woman with a magical plant-related gift.

Legendborn (The Legendborn Cycle #1)

Tracy Deonn’s series also combines Black Girl Magic with mythology, but in this case, it’s Arthurian Legend, not Greek myth.

Wild Beauty

And the women in Anna-Marie McLemore’s story also have magical gardening gifts that come at a price.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury YA, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. This Poison Heart is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.