I have been faithfully making my lists of the top 10 books I’ve missed from the previous year for the last several years now (Here are my lists for books from 2016, 2015 and 2014). And every year, I never make it to all the books on that list, while some other book will jump out and say, “Read me now!”
Case in point:
A Little Taste of Poison by R.J. Anderson. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016.
The adventures of Isaveth, adventure-loving pre-teen from the minority Moshite faith in her culture, and her friend Esmond, son of the Sage Lord, whom she knew as the street boy Quiz in A Pocket Full of Murder. Isaveth is both honored and shocked when she’s awarded the Glo-Mor Scholarship to prestigious upper-class Tarreton College. It’s especially difficult because even though Esmond also attends school here, they have to pretend not to be friends. He’s also not at all the person she made friends with when at school.
Isaveth is met with immediate bullying. That doesn’t surprise her – it’s more surprising that a girl named Eulalie is actually friendly to her, even when everyone else seems bent on making her time at school miserable. She gradually finds that there’s more to the bullying than simple prejudice, as Esmond’s charming but power-mad older brother Eryx is up to usual tricks again…
We have a little more time with Esmond this book, as he snoops in his own household trying to find some usable proof of his brother’s dirty deeds, and figure out who among his family is complicit. There’s a pleasing mix of different levels of crime, as well as the murder of a decidedly unlikable character. It was also fun to see Isaveth learning more about the different kind of magic used by the upper class and normally forbidden to commoners like her. This is still a delightful mix of adventure, mystery and magic, with two very likeable if believably flawed main characters. Such fun!