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Conversion Hardcover – July 1, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Howe skillfully blends a modern medical mystery based on real events with the historical Salem Witch panic to create an engaging story. The prelude begins with Ann Putnam arriving at her minister's house in Salem, Massachusetts in 1706, finally ready to confess her part in the Panic more than 12 years before. Ann's tale continues in between glimpses into the life of Colleen Rowley, a senior at the exclusive St. Joan's High School of Danvers, Massachusetts in 2012. The pressure in the final semester is intense for Colleen and her classmates, who are all competing for places in top colleges. Her usually uneventful morning is disturbed, first by an apparent seizure of the very popular Clara Rutherford, and then by the unexplained replacement of the young AP History teacher. As the semester continues, more girls fall victim to a panoply of symptoms. Meanwhile, Colleen begins work on a research paper for the history substitute on an actual person absent from Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Amid a growing media circus, diagnoses are offered and then dismissed. The protagonist's research persuades her that the cause of the Salem Witch trials was far from supernatural and that the same "force" might be at work at St. Joan's. The author convincingly writes in the voice of current and historical teens, and major characters undergo significant growth in this intense tale. Howe's use of red herrings and the "ripped from the headlines" narrative will keep readers guessing until the final reveal.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids
St. Joan’s Academy in Danvers, Massachusetts, a well-to-do private girl’s school for the best and brightest, is usually only home to hysteria of the college-admissions kind. But when Clara starts convulsing in class, a media frenzy fixates on the St. Joan’s mystery disease. Is it a reaction to the HPV vaccine? Or are students under so much pressure they’re beginning to crack? As more and more girls fall ill, Coleen, gunning for valedictorian, researches the Salem witch trials and begins to notice eerie echoes among her peers. Howe, author of the New York Times best-selling The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (2009), returns to similar territory here in her young-adult debut. In propulsive scenes, the story alternates between Coleen in 2012, who narrates the growing atmosphere of intense competition and pressure that is thankfully tempered by some heartening and realistic friendships, and Ann Putnam in 1706, who recounts her complicity during the Salem Panic and comes clean about the girls’ accusations of witchcraft. A simmering blend of relatable high-school drama with a persistent pinprick of unearthliness in the background. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a major motion picture in development, this novel is getting a media campaign to match. Grades 8-11. --Sarah Hunter
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Top Customer Reviews
I only gave this 4 stars due to a selfish need to know more beyond where the story ends.
I really wasn't sure what I was going to think about this book going into it - it was on the list for a book club in the month of November for me and so I read it for that reason only. I am happy to report that I did enjoy this story over all though.
For starters, the book got a little confusing when it breaks up between current day in Danvers and when it jumps back to colonial times in Salem. (Think, The Crucible). It was very interesting how the author lined up both sides of this story though and I found myself waiting for the interludes to see how the story from the past lined up with what was going on in Colleen's life!
I wasn't happy to find the setting to be a private girls catholic school - that just seems typical for a LOT of YA books these days, but I didn't mind it once the true meat of the story started to come out. I really enjoyed getting to know Colleen and her friends and then meeting her love interest, Spense, made things ever more interesting. Put in the fact that she's a senior, about to have to pass classes, and find a college, and this book became way more interesting to me!
I loved the air of mystery surrounding what was going on in the school and how crazy all the theories got. For a while it was hard to decide if this book was going to be actually a contemporary book or if it would go ahead and transform into a fantasy book about REAL witches!! I was happy with how it ended for the most part - and the author laid things out so well that by the end I just wanted the answers as to what was REALLY going on! I definitely recommend this book to anyone that loves a good YA mystery, with a little history thrown in as well! There is some cursing, but other wise a clean story!