Hello my wonderful YA Bookcasers!
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Recently, I finished a book called How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, and I must say, it inspired me to start off my first book review post on our new website! This is a *spoiler free* review.
Here’s the blurb:
It’s the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.
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.
When I first picked up this book, I’ll admit that I was only semi-interested. The cover appealed to me, but the blurb concerned me that it might lean on the YA tropes too much. I’m very glad to say it didn’t (although there are a few in there), and I was pleasantly surprised by how nicely the book read.
I’m a lover of three main things: complex plots that have been written with clarity, poetic prose, and excellent visuals. How to Hang a Witch had all three of these in abundance. There were places in the book where the visuals stood out so strongly that I had to pause to let them sink in. They really drew me into the story. I especially enjoyed scenes with the magic-tinged elements. If you’re looking for a book where you can really sink into the setting and get yourself comfy, then you can’t really go wrong here.
In terms of plotting, I think Mather did a commendable job of weaving both past and present together, while still maintaining the proper feeling of a YA book. The story unraveled at just the right speed, and the threads were woven together with skill. There is authenticity in the writing, not just because of the author’s connected history to Salem (which is of great interest in and of itself), but because the author has a lot of emotion on the page.
Prose wise, I was particularly impressed. I found it to be flowing, poetic, and evocative, without ever being over the top. It definitely was a smooth read. There was nothing that jarred me out of the story, or made me stop and pause. It was plain sailing all the way.
As an aside, I really liked the character of Elijah, who had a gritty yet posh aspect to him, which made him equally edgy yet polite. He felt complex and real, and I can see his appeal.
I did have some quibbles, though. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, but I can handle them. However, I don’t think this book really needed one. I think if one of the male love interests was removed – Jaxon – it wouldn’t affect the plot in any major way. I actually thought it would be stronger without it, as the relationship between Sam and Elijah is definitely the more compelling of the two.
The main character Sam, while well drawn, wasn’t my favorite lead character to connect to either, as I found her a little too complaining. However, this is a completely subjective opinion, as I’m notoriously hard to please when it comes to character connection.
My only other down point was that I felt the twist ending needed a little more work and setup. If it had been fleshed out more, it would have given it a little extra oomph. Though those ending scenes are very well written and completely engrossing.
Criticisms aside, this was a very well written book. Mather has a great skill of bringing to life the history of Salem, and combining it with the modern world. There are some truly spine-chilling moments, and I raced through the book in two days, so the pacing is lovely and tight. If you’ve not read it, then I highly recommend you do. This is one that has truly earned itself a permanent spot on my bookshelf!
You can find How to Hang a Witch on Goodreads.
You can also find Adriana Mather’s on her author Facebook page.
Happy reading, YA Bookcasers!