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Review: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather (How to Hang a Witch #1)

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How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather // VBC ReviewHow to Hang a Witch (How to Hang a Witch #1)
Adriana Mather
Published: July 23, 2016 (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: purchased

Reviewed by: Beth

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Samantha (Sam) Mather is moving to Salem, Massachusetts. Not willingly, mind you. Her father is in a coma, and her stepmother insist they sell their home in New York to be able to pay for his treatment, which means moving back to the home he grew up in. The home of the grandmother that Sam never met. Unfortunately, Salem being the place it is, that means that the Mather name is not one well received—Cotton Mather being one of the prime instigators in the Witch Trials. Even worse, there is a group of kids that are also descendants–of the hung women–and they aren’t fond of a Mather being around either. As people start dying, Sam comes to realize that this is a curse begun during the trials that has repeated over generations, and she and the Descendants (as they call themselves) may be the only ones that can stop it before all of them end up dead.

This is one of those books I debated about getting for a long time (obviously, since it came out in 2016!). There was, of course, heavy interest in the whole Salem Witch Trial connection, but always the fear that it would be some overblown teenage romance with little of actual witches or mystery to really keep things going. Thankfully, this proved NOT to be the case!

Set in current-day Salem, the book covers not only a lot of the history, but is almost a geographical tour set to words as well. I’ve never been to Salem, but I feel as though I would be able to use this book to navigate many of the historical sites were I ever to visit.

The characters drew me in more than I expected. Honestly, the first chapter or so sort of had me wondering what I signed up for. There was no slow descent into chaos—it just jumped right off the first few pages. However, it can be hard to remember that high school can certainly feel that way. Sam is a strong young lady, used to being the outsider due to mysterious events that have always seemed to surround her, and so she has put up walls to protect herself. It is always nice to find a book that has a realistic, strong female lead. The Descendants were the same in their own ways, and helped propel the book in surprising ways. By the end of the story, I found that I really enjoyed spending time with these characters, and would definitely be interested in the sequel I knew was coming out.

The plot was fairly well done, and while there was one mystery I solved before the book did, there were others that definitely surprised me. The idea of a curse being generational, and based around the Salem Witch Trials–with a ghost and some romance thrown in for good measure–was fascinating, and the way much of the actual historical events were woven in made it that much better. Frankly, I’m a sucker for historical fiction, and Mather did a pretty good job on this one.

While the overall vibe I caught a few times was similar to the movie The Craft (I’m probably dating myself by even writing that…), it was in an overall good way—sort of like a pleasant memory. And honestly, very little of the book had that tone, there were just a few spots where it popped in my mind.

How to Hang a Witch was a great read. Definitely worth checking out before the second one arrives in October. I would, however, not pick it up right before bed. I ended up reading it in one go, and that makes for long and exhausting workdays the next day!

Sexual content: none

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