Written by Adriana Mather, a 12th generation descendant of Cotton Mather, How to Hang a Witch introduces us to Samantha Mather, a fictional descendant of Cotton. Samantha and her stepmother, Vivian, have recently moved to Salem after her father mysteriously slips into a coma. Upon her arrival and attendance to the local high school, Samantha quickly realizes that the Mather name doesn’t inspire much toward positive interactions for her. In fact, it’s quite the opposite as Samantha is bullied by a group of students dubbed The Descendants. You won’t need to be a genius as to why this group of students are named such.
Bullying is one of two prominent themes throughout the book. It irked me quite a lot that the Descendants were incredibly quick to judge Samantha based solely on the fact that she was a descendant of Cotton instead of getting to know the girl first. Her neighbors son, Jaxon, is the only student that, from the beginning, is actually nice to her. However, the Descendants treatment of Samantha only continues to feed into the second theme of the book: History repeating itself.
As the book continues, Samantha is frequently accused of being the cause of various incidents not only in school, but around town all involving various family members of the Descendants. Once a ghost by the name of Elijah makes his presence known to Samantha, the two quickly discover the correlating events of present day Salem with that of it’s past as the hysteria surrounding Samantha’s presence continues to escalate. A large chunk of the novel is Samantha and Elijah trying to solve this “curse” while she also tries to mend some bridges in order to get some help from some of the Descendants.
When I first picked up the book, I was somewhat skeptical of a descendant writing about her ancestor–fictionally or not. I thought, “How in the world can this storynot be one-sided?” For a Teen/YA novel, Adriana pulled off a nice balance of giving the reader a nod to both sides of the argument, so to speak, from Samantha’s perspective–I’m simply a descendant, what’s the deal?–to the perspective of her ancestor’s victims–Bad shit started happened when you showed up–that there is enough to see both sides. So, Adriana managed to do that enough to my satisfaction.
However, while I enjoyed the book overall, there were a couple things that stuck out at me, personally, that made me give the novel a four-star rating. I would have liked to have seen more direct involvement of Cotton given the main character is his descendant. Unfortunately, Cotton only shows up directly two and half times and I think Adriana under-utilized him and I think the novel would’ve had more depth to it if Cotton had been more involved. But, considering this novel is the first in a series, it could be that Adriana has plans for him down the line.
The other factor that didn’t do the novel any favors at times was instances of choppy writing. It wasn’t a common occurrence in the novel, but there were several passages throughout that took me out of the story long enough to say, “Oh. That could’ve been written differently for better flow.” Again, however, as it’s the first in a series, I’m sure Adriana is merely trying to find her style–First books are never perfect. Despite that one issue, however, I was incredibly pleased to see that there were no misspelled words–Something that I find happening more and more of late in other paranormal novels I read aimed toward adults. Be that as it may, if you’re into YA supernatural reads that involve witches, ghosts, and teenage angst (and who doesn’t love angst?Don’t answer that!) then you won’t be disappointed with How to Hang a Witch.
Author: Adriana Mather
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (2016)
Started: August 2nd, 2016
Finished: August 19th, 2016