[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Kindle, Audiobook, Audible
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | iBooks[/alert]

Adriana Mather’s How to Hang a Witch combines past historical events in Salem with a modern setting featuring magic, paranormal elements, suspense, and mystery, while dealing with a major theme of high school bullying. Sam Mather is a descendant of Cotton Mather, who played a significant in the hanging of accused witches during the Salem Witch Trials. As Sam has to adjust with moving from New York City to Salem, she worries about her father who is in a coma. Also, she has to deal regularly with bullies, who judge her based on her last name. The Descendants, whose ancestors were the accused witches in the Trials, dislike Sam from the start and this truly displays the power of history in Salem. In addition, Sam stumbles along a curse tied to the Trials. She must solve this mystery quickly with the help of a ghost because mysterious deaths have plagued the town since she arrived and she could be blamed for them.

This story is told through first person point of view, unfolding Sam’s strength, humor, sarcasm, and fears, while keeping the story plot-driven with a complex mystery embedded with history. Each relationship in the novel is original, complex and is showcased especially through interactions and great dialogue. These relationships and dialogue add a personal aspect to the historical events and plot driven aspects of the story. With an eerie atmosphere, gothic descriptions, magic rituals, spells and remembrance of the Salem Witch Trials, this novel disperses a Halloween vibe that adds realism to the setting, plot and understanding the superstitions of the town.

The history elements of the novel are a great addition to this fiction novel. The author entertains the audience with historical elements, learning important events of the past through a suspenseful read. The author is a descendant of Cotton Mather and through research and family history, Adriana Mather creates a fascinating historical fantasy novel, while adding a touch of her personality to the words written on the page.

Another interesting and complex aspect was the social structure of high school. The author displays a common problem, bullying, in an original way by tying it to past events and historical figures of the Salem Witch Trials. As problems occur in the community, Sam is labeled an outsider and is blamed because of history and aspects of the past. The important message of the problems of bullying correlates past events, such as the Salem Witch Trials, with modern day problems. These problems are showcased through lies and hysteria that corrupt perceptions and cloud judgments.

How to Hang a Witch incorporates history, fantasy elements, mystery, modern problems in society, secret passageways, forgotten diaries, ghosts, complex relationships and characters, and a complicated curse to solve. People who enjoy suspenseful tales of mystery, history, magic, and humor will appreciate this entertaining and well-written tale.

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