Monday, July 21, 2014

Conversion by Katherine Howe

I absolutely loved this book, partly because we just visited Salem this year and I "relearned" about that time in history, and I am fascinated by it.  The book opens with Ann Putnam in 1706 (*the* Ann Putnam of Salem Witch trial fame) and then moves to Colleen in present day Boston.  Howe did a lot of research and used those facts and testimonies within the novel, sometimes the truth is better than fiction.  And while most of us know the details about the witch trials, the book still leaves the reader guessing how it is all going to end.

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


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