“I have to convince a group of people who hate me to help solve a curse that could be killing our families.” – p. 125
How to Hang a Witch (Knopf, 2016) is a YA paranormal novel written by Adriana Mather, an actual descendant of the Salem Witch Trials’ Cotton Mather. The protagonist in this story is Samantha Mather – a fictional descendant of Cotton’s – who has just moved from New York City into her late grandmother’s home in Salem, Massachusetts. Sam lives with her stepmother, Vivian, while her father remains in a coma for unknown reasons.
As soon as Sam arrives to Salem, the town wants her out. Especially a group of goth girls at school, known as the Descendants, who are descendants of the persecuted Salem witches. It doesn’t help that strange and awful things keep occurring to everyone who comes into contact with Sam, almost as if she’s cursing them…when, in truth, it’s likely she’s the one who’s cursed.
In quick succession, Sam meets two guys: the outgoing boy next door, Jaxon; and a seventeenth-century ghost who haunts her grandmother’s mansion, Elijah. Sam is the only one who can see Elijah, and while he wants her gone, he also begins to help her piece together Salem’s true history to uncover why she is cursed, and how to end the pattern of killings in town. I liked the love triangle created between Sam, Jaxon, and the spirit, Elijah. Something about Sam and Elijah’s relationship reminded me of Casper and Christina Ricci’s character in Casper (1995).
This fast-paced YA occult suspense was an absolute delight to read. The chapters are short and punchy; Sam’s narration is to-the-point, sympathetic, and often humorous; and Mather’s supernatural vision of Salem, as well as her fascinating and approachable portrayal of its history, jumps off the e-pages. And we can’t forget the witches in the story – Susannah, Alice, Mary, and Lizzie – who are like something straight out of Mean Girls or The Craft. If you’re a fan of fun commercial YA with some solid, spooky witchcraft, a history-seeped mystery, and a good ol’-fashioned ghost story with a positive and powerful message, you need How to Hang a Witch in your life.
“‘Almost everything worth believing in cannot be seen. Love, for instance.‘” – p. 106
“‘Kindly do not interrupt me,’ he says with anything but kindness. Kindly I will smack you in your perfect face.” – Sam and Elijah, p. 116
“The silence between us is thick with secrets.” p. 196
“It is the greatest evil of all, to separate people who love each other.” – Abigail, p. 232
“‘I’m truly sorry for all of your pain. But I’m not the cause of it anymore. You are.‘” – Cotton, p. 339
“‘Nothing is going to change unless you make different choices…’” – p. 341