by Travis Fox
Reviewed by: Michelle Bishop
In Poison Ivy, Travis Vp Fox takes us inside the mind of Ivy, a drug-addicted prostitute, as she attempts to explain who she is and how she came into the life she leads. Ivy winds back the clock to the night Mister came into her life and wanders back and forth between the past and the present, the real and the imaginary. We see Ivy’s life through her drug-induced haze and we reel from the images she shows us.
Excerpting from one of Edgar Allan Poe’s works, Fox clearly states his ambition is to examine the diseased mind and the terrors one can experience – internal and spiritual horrors as well as the external and physical. Ivy’s is an oddly compelling tale despite an extremely confusing timeline, extensive flashbacks, and lengthy dream-like sequences. Ivy’s drug habit serves as an excellent device for Fox’s exploration of the deteriorating mind and the fine line between sanity and madness.
There is a lot to enjoy about Poison Ivy. It’s a fast-paced, easy read with enough salaciousness to keep the pages turning. Ivy’s voice is strong and we see clear character development as the story progresses. Ivy tells her story unapologetically and seems, in the end, to find her strength through the telling. Some of the scenes seem over the top in their depravity but in the context of the story they are, as Poe puts it, “a series of mere household events.” These mere household events in Ivy’s life are terrible and terrifying and obviously contribute to the drug addiction and mental illness.
Unfortunately, Fox falls back on the sexually-victimized children back story that we so often see in Urban Literature. Also, Ivy’s story becomes more convoluted than a telenovella on Univision as secrets are revealed and mind-games are played. Finally, Ivy’s drug dreams make it impossible to distinguish the real from the imaginary towards the end of the book. We find ourselves wondering whether or not any of the last several scenes actually is happening as Ivy transforms from junkie prostitute to avenging dark angel.
Fox set a lofty goal for himself; it is no small task to try to walk the path of Edgar Allan Poe. However, he does manage to intrigue us so that in the end, we ask a variety of questions. Who is Poison Ivy? Is she real or imaginary? Is she a villain or a superhero? Is she dead or alive? Is she a ghost? The fact that we have such questions means, at the very least, that Fox has gotten us thinking about this character and her role in her world. Poison Ivy is not quite Poe, but it’s an admirable start.
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