How To Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
How to Hang a Witch is the debut novel from American author Adriana Mather. The book it follows Sam Mather who moves to Salem with her step mother after her father becomes seriously ill. Sam is related to Cotton Mather, one of the ministers involved in the Witch Trials, and as a result she finds herself to be an outcast at school. The relatives of the supposed witches, the ‘Descendants’, thrive on their association and Sam starts to realise that things in Salem are not what they seem. She is plunged into a world of witches, curses, and ghosts. As tensions rise, Sam has to face the ghosts of Salem’s past and find a way to save the lives of those connected to the Witch Trials.
The book is face paced and provides the reader with an excellent story and some facts they might not know about the Salem Witch Trials. I was excited to learn that Adriana Mather is related to the Mather’s of Salem and I think this helps the book to have a unique voice. The history of Salem is fascinating and this novel cleverly weaves this into a modern drama.
One of the strongest parts of the book for me was the way that Mather writes realistic relationships. The family ties, the friendships, and budding relationships all feel genuine. These relationships ground the book and make it feel accessible. I could follow Sam’s decisions and reasoning because she acted on her emotions and her relationships with others. The other element I liked was how Mather showed the insidious nature of gossip and rumours. Rumours caused the harrowing events of the Salem Witch Trials. They claimed lives and destroyed families. The echoes of this are felt in Sam’s experiences of Salem. Rumours about her lead to her being ostracised and harassed. This analysis of the effects of spreading rumours and gossip was excellently done and, for me, welcome in YA fiction.
How to Hang a Witch is brilliant example of how to craft contemporary magical realism for YA audiences. It is a tight and tense read, keeping the reader engaged and guessing the entire way through.