by Christina Meldrum
Genre: YA

Christina Meldrum is a wealth of knowledge in religion and law. (Hence her education: Bachelor of Arts in religious studies and political science from the University of Michigan and Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.)  But beyond that she has an extensive knowledge of plants and their medicinal properties.  Because I cannot do the synopsis justice, here is what the book is about, straight from the jacket cover:

The secrets of the past meet the shocks of the present. Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be. 
When Aslaug's mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother's death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug's birth. About what she should do next. 
About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day. 
Addictive, thought-provoking, and shocking, MADAPPLE is a page-turning exploration of human nature and divine intervention—and of the darkest corners of the human soul.
In the beginning of the story, Aslaug and her Danish mother collect herbs and the understanding for that “abusive” relationship is unraveled. (I quote abusive because it is not classic; verbal, physical or sexual abuse. I’m not even sure if you would call it mental. It is more like "psychologically altering" abuse.) We learn she is not only homeschooled but also isolated from the real world. We find ourselves in a disturbing place, trapped in the mind of her mother’s knowledge and fears. Aslaug must use her own intelligence to make her best way. Soon after the intro of the herb collecting, we flash forward to a courtroom, where Aslaug is on trial for murder. The chapters rotate back and forth from the time leading up to the trial and to the revealing courtroom testimony.

Let me just comment quickly on the disturbing relationship Aslaug has with her mother. It is written so vividly, you question if Meldrum gained the knowledge first hand. Amazing really. Also the courtroom chapters are written line by line, as if written by a court reporter. No description of what the character is doing, no dialogue tags, just verbatim what they are saying. It is there, I am awed because you still see each person's personality solely based on what they SAY. (Good exercise in dialogue if you ask me.)

If you are offended by religious challenges/comparisons to Christianity or scandalous characters in religious roles, you will not enjoy this book. Though the religious comparisons did become heavy and slowed the story down at times, they also enlightened me. This is NOT a dystopian novel but the knowledge of plants and their medicinal purpose spoke to the dystopian lover in me because that “end of the world” knowledge you will need to know.

I think the end tag line from the jacket cover says it best “Addictive, thought-provoking, shocking…” I would also add, disturbing. It is unlike anything I have read before. The cover is PERFECT and intriguing all in itself. Though I may not recommend you rush out and buy a copy, I would suggest reading it if you are given the opportunity (library, borrowed copy, etc.) I will have to say it may NOT be the book for you because it is “off.” And you may not find it as interesting as I did but one thing is for sure, Christina Meldrum is a very intelligent woman.