Fantasy (Teen), Horror (Teen), YA Fiction

How to Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather

I’ve always been fascinated by the Salem Witch trials. It was a time when paranoia and hallucinations ran rampant, leading to the death of many innocent women. I remember reading quite a few nonfiction novels to try to understand how this mass hysteria came to be. I haven’t had a chance to read a fictional book about this topic, and thought this would be a good novel to start with. Here is my review:

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials. It is also Samantha Mather’s new home. When Sam and her stepmother move to Salem from New York City, they don’t exactly get a warm welcome. Sam is a descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch trials. This automatically makes San the enemy of a group of girls who are descended from the witches that were hung by Cotton. If struggling to deal with these bullies wasn’t enough, Sam also finds herself face to face with a real ghost, one who wants Sam to leave the house she lives in. But soon, Sam discovers that she is at the center of a centuries old curse. Sam must now get help from the ghost and find a way to work with her enemies in order to stop the deadly cycle of the curse. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

I went in knowing that this was a YA fiction novel. I think having this understanding is what allowed me to enjoy this story. I knew not to expect too much depth or intricate plot lines; I assumed it would have similar themes to most teen fiction stories (albeit with witches). This turned out to be true. However, I quite liked this story. Sam is a sarcastic yet shy/vulnerable character who has a hard time trusting people and opening up. This makes sense when you consider the things she has gone through in her childhood. In fact, I wish this was expounded upon more in the story. I liked the way the author brought in the history behind the Salem witch trials; in fact, I wish there had been more of it. I felt as if the author would bring up important facts or mysteries about this time period in history but then either let it drop or resolve it too quickly. I feel like this was an aspect that the author could have spent more time on. I will say that there was a definitive plot for this story and I really liked the way it moved; there was a lot more witchy elements than I had expected, which is always a nice surprise. The Descendants, the name for the group of students who are descended from the accused witches, were pretty much your stereotypical bully/popular girl clique but I expected that from the start. I will admit the writing wasn’t anything to admire and the love triangle was a bit awkward and cringe-y for my taste… but the overall story was interesting. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars, and I would recommend this to teens around the age of 13-15 who like stories about witches.

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