From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–Wicked Girls weaves a fresh interpretation of the events put forth in Arthur Miller's The Crucible and revisited more recently by Katherine Howe in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Voice, 2009). Mercy Lewis, Ann Putnam, and Mary Walcott (in this story, called “Margaret”) point their fingers, lift their eyes, and cry “witch” once again. Elderly Goody Nurse appears, Mary Warren (here called “Ruth”) recants her accusations, John Proctor is accused and hanged, and Giles Corey is pressed to death. The verse format is fresh and engaging, distilling the actions of the seven accusing girls into riveting narrative. In Hemphill's village of Salem, Mercy Lewis (age 17) and Ann Putnam, Jr. (age 12) vie for control of the group of girls who quickly become swept up by their celebrity. Their accusations become self-serving: the merest look or shudder from one of the “afflicted” means the offender (an inattentive lover; someone who has done a parent wrong) risks being branded a witch or wizard. Eventually, the group fractures and the girls turn on each other, leading to cruelty and death. In the author's note, Hemphill outlines the historical background, with source notes for further reading. As in Your Own, Sylvia (Knopf, 2007), she bases her book in fact, but acknowledges that “certain names and accounts have been changed, amended and altered” in the construction of her novel. Teens may need some encouragement to pick up this book, but it deserves a place in most high school collections.Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Hemphill follows her Printz Honor Book Your Own, Sylvia (2007) with another bold verse novel based on historical figures. Here, her voices belong to the “afflicted” girls of Salem, whose accusations of witchcraft led to the hangings of 19 townspeople in 1692. Once again, Hemphill's raw, intimate poetry probes behind the abstract facts and creates characters that pulse with complex emotion. According to an appended author's note, unresolved theories about the causes of the girls' behavior range from bread-mold-induced hallucinations to bird flu. In Hemphill's story, the girls fake their afflictions, and the book's great strength lies in its masterful unveiling of the girls' wholly believable motivations: romantic jealousy; boredom; a yearning for friendship, affection, and attention; and most of all, empowerment in a highly constricting and stratified society that left few opportunities for women. Layering the girls' voices in interspersed, lyrical poems that slowly build the psychological drama, Hemphill requires patience from her readers. What emerge are richly developed portraits of Puritanical mean girls, and teens will easily recognize the contemporary parallels in the authentic clique dynamics. An excellent supplementary choice for curricular studies of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, this will also find readers outside the classroom, who will savor the accessible, unsettling, piercing lines that connect past and present with timeless conflicts and truths. Grades 7-12. --Gillian Engberg