Jessamine is a 16-year-old girl who lives with her father in an old abbey in the late 18th century. Her father is an apothecary, who grows plants to make remedies to cure the sick, and Jessamine helps him by tending the gardens and house for him, although there is one garden that she is not allowed to enter - her father's poison garden, where he grows all manner of poisonous plants that in the right mixtures can be used to cure the ill and infirm. Jessamine has asked on several occasions if she may see the garden but her father always refuses, and keeps the garden locked with a padlock.
One day an orphan boy is bought to Jessamine's father by the owner of a madhouse in a nearby village. He claims that he was keeping the boy as an unpaid worker in return for shelter, and that the boy had begun to cure his patients of their madness by slipping something into their tea. Enraged, the owner of the madhouse had shouted at the boy, and told him to stop curing his patients - he would put him out of business! Unfortunately, the people of the village then all started to turn quite mad, and the owner of the madhouse was convinced that the boy had poisoned them all in retaliation.
Curious about the boys knowledge of plants, Jessamine's father takes the boy in, and Jessamine learns that he is an orphan, bought up by an alcoholic friar, and has been all alone since the friar's death. The only name the boy knows is Weed, and so this is what they call him.
Jessamine's father tries to convince Weed to tell him all he knows about plants - he is constantly searching for new knowledge, and old remedies that have been lost with the death of the monks who originally inhabited the abbey. But Weed refuses to tell Jessamine's father anything, and instead confides in Jessamine, telling her his secret, and swearing her to secrecy. Weed can talk to plants, and they talk back, and this is how he has learned his healing knowledge.
One day, whilst Jessamine's father is away dealing with a sick patient, Jessamine and Weed kiss, and admit that they have feelings for one another, but are caught by her father, who in turn requests that they become engaged to be married. Jessamine and Weed both agree to this, but after a toast to celebrate, Jessamine falls ill to some strange ailment that her father seems incapable of curing, and he turns to Weed for help curing his daughter.
Poor Weed talks to the plants and they say that they cannot help him this time - Jessamine's sickness is not of their doing, and so instead Weed finds himself entering the poison garden, the place that he detests most in search of a cure for Jessamine. With time running out, Weed knows that he must do the poisonous plants bidding if he wants to save Jessamine, but at what cost?
This book was a good read, quite obviously intended for a young-adult audience, but the characters are believeable and the story quite intriguing, the ending also left the way open for a sequel, without leaving the book without an ending. 3/5