Conversion by Katherine Howe is a mind-blowing look into the minds of impressionable teenage girls, the Salem Witch Trials, and how the old saying “mind over matter” really can affect the human psyche.
In this novel, readers are introduced to Colleen, a young girl attending an elite private school in Danvers, MA, who happens to be vying for valedictorian and a top college placement. One day at school, she witnesses a fellow student in the throes of a seizure-like event that leaves her with a noticeable tic when she speaks. Other students soon begin to experience this “Mystery Illness.” There is no warning and no explanation. Seemingly healthy, active girls are suddenly afflicted with strange symptoms that can’t be linked to anyone or anything.
Once author Katherine Howe draws you into this world, you are then thwarted and thrown back to Salem Village in 1706, where Ann Putnam, Jr. is recounting her confession to Reverend Green for her part in the Witch Trials a decade before. Ann explains how she saw her friends and relatives fall ill and before long, spins her tale into how even she herself became bewitched.
Fear is now in session.
As Colleen reads The Crucible for her extra credit project, she comes to the startling realization that her town of Danvers is actually modern-day Salem Village. Bouncing back and forth between centuries, Howe creates enough similarities that make you wonder if there is another witchcraft epidemic. Intertwined with wit and suspense, both Ann and Colleen bring you into their lives and keep you rooting for them, even when their motives may be questionable.
This book begins with a fast-paced intensity that continues throughout. The writing is smart, sharp, and on point. Both girls have clear, distinct personalities, and are able to tell their stories in the first person narrative without any overlap in characterization.
- Author: Katherine Howe
- Grade: 7 and up
- publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (July 1, 2014)
- ISBN 10: 0399167773
- ISBN 13: 978-0399167775
Interestingly, Katherine Howe provides readers with in-depth facts regarding both the Salem Witch Trials and several diseases that could have afflicted the girls. Some of these facts are gleaned from Howe’s own personal history, as she had three family members accused of witchcraft, and one hanged. This story will delight history lovers and charm those simply looking for a captivating novel.