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Review: How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather

It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past. Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were? If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.


This was one of those daily Goodreads Deals picks, and sounded just bizarre enough to get behind. We have a girl who's returning to her family's hometown after a mysterious illness leaves her father in a coma. It just turns out she's a direct descendant of a man who burned witches, and there are some YA witches at her school who are mad as hell about her returning. Oh, and there are also a bunch of mysterious deaths. And there's that ghost in her house. And the weird visions. And the cute boy next door. And the fact that the ghost is really cute, too. It's a bizarre love triangle, to be sure.

So Sam and her stepmother arrive to the Mather family home and things immediately start going wonky. And everyone at school hates her. And Sam is also incredibly unlucky (also, she has to play the role of Cotton Mather in a school play). She's so lucky she has both a ghost boyfriend and real-life guy next door.

There isn't anything spooky or thrilling about How To Hang A Witch, unfortunately. It's mostly confusing and kind of dull. There is a huge cast of characters and it's kind of hard to keep them all straight, and it's also hard to keep up the energy to want to keep them straight.

Some parts of it definitely made me think back to Hocus Pocus, which is probably why it got the second star in the end. Man, what a great movie.

Two stars

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on July 26, 2016

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