Poison Shy by Stacey Madden is a book I picked up on a complete whim. I’d never heard of it before and read only half the description on the back before deciding on reading it. So, I really had very little idea what sort of book I was in for.
Poison Shy is a look into the life of Brandon Galloway at a rather unique time in his life. Brandon is 29-years-old, a bit of a recluse, a bit of a loser, with a bit of a troubled childhood. After an awkwardly bad break up with his girlfriend Patricia (a waitress at the restaurant he’d been working at) in addition to the ever-increasing deterioration of his mentally ill mother’s mind, and with just one friend (who barely even qualifies as a friend to begin with), Brandon hits an all-time personal low and finds a new job as an exterminator for a pest control company in the tiny town he lives in.
One morning while out at work, Brandon meets 21-year-old Melanie, the college girl whose apartment he was to be fumigating of bed bugs. Instantly, Brandon took a liking to Melanie, a red-haired wild child with a lot of confidence and no reserves – happy-go-lucky, promiscuous, mysterious. Somehow, Brandon ends up securing a date with Melanie a few days later, and they have a good time (much to Melanie’s surprise). And despite some of Melanie’s indiscretions, Brandon finds it all exciting, sexy. But along with Melanie, Brandon is forced to accept her grungy, aggravating roommate, Darcy.
Brandon and Melanie date for a short period of time, all the while with Darcy lurking close behind (or, right in their faces at some points), and they break up after a bizarre falling out that, unsurprisingly, had Darcy at the heart of it. And then, just like that, just as the first few pages of the prologue promised, Melanie went missing. Because of Melanie’s carefree (see: careless) attitude and her wild history, Brandon has a hard time deciding whether Melanie is really in any sort of trouble, or if this is all just another one of her and Darcy’s haphazard cons. Nevertheless, Brandon finds himself in the middle of the chaos and, with conflicted feelings and the police on his heels, sets out to find Melanie… in his own well-intentioned but graceless way.
At just 160 pages in length, I finished reading Poison Shy in the same night. And though I can’t say I loved it, or even that I really liked it, it did keep me amused and continually turning the pages to find out what might happen next. Stacey Madden is a talented writer, and he did well with the story he was trying to portray. Unfortunately though, I felt as if he spent more time trying to emulate the brash and grimy vibe of other writers who’ve come before him, like Chuck Palahniuk, for example, rather than really focus on making his own voice loud and clear or even writing a totally fleshed out story that wasn’t just mediocre. The other thing I didn’t like about this book was how Melanie’s character was essentially just a raunchy version of the clichéd manic pixie dream girl. I don’t have a single problem with characters like Melanie or who do the things that Melanie did in this book, but I just don’t think women like Melanie are ever given the development they deserve when written by male writers… but that’s a whole different topic.
Like I said, Poison Shy by Stacey Madden is not my favourite book in the world. It was alright, but nothing special. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone (if only because I’ll probably have forgotten all about it by the time I’d ever get a chance to recommend it), but I also wouldn’t tell people to avoid it either. Particularly, I feel young men would especially enjoy this book, much more so than women.