Paranormal Young Adult
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?
If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.
How to Hang Witch gives us a look at how quickly mass hysteria can build and mob mentality can take over, and though it's not a story meant to be a profound examination of current affairs through the lens of the past, it's something that deeply resonates nonetheless given the tragic events around the world this year.
While we can't help but draw comparisons between the prejudice and hatred running rampant in Salem during the witch trials with that of today, this story also gives us an intriguing family curse to try and solve right alongside Sam and the mean girls clique that is the Descendants. The mystery surrounding the families with direct ties to the trials is well done, small clues given here and there to keep us interested, with Ms. Mather mixing just enough history with the paranormal to have us itching to do more in depth research once we close the back cover.
Though unraveling the family curse makes for the rapid turning of pages, older readers of YA like myself will likely find themselves needing to channel their inner teenager with regards to Sam, trying to see her fiery temper, snap judgements and impressive ability to push people away with a few cruel words through our younger eyes in order to keep from getting overly frustrated. In addition to Sam's youthful drama we also have a love triangle in which one point of said triangle is dead while the other two are living, and a group of high school girls who are a bit over the top in terms of nastiness, making it a bit hard to really settle in character-wise.
That being said though, those looking for something more story-driven than character-driven will likely appreciate this as a quick read and a fascinating take on a tragic event in our history, made even more so due to the author's direct link to Cotton Mather.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.