What do you get when you mix a witch, a ghost and a love triangle? An engaging page-turner called How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. The running theme for this book is something we’ve all read before – a strange girl who has just moved to a new school and is preyed upon by a group of bullies. She is having a hard time fitting in and making friends but ends up finding someone anyway. And there’s always a boy in the picture – or two. Both handsome, both kind, both very mysterious.
So if it’s a story told before, then why read it? Because there’s a witch, a ghost and a love triangle. And it’s set in Salem, Massachusetts. There has always been a great fascination for the 1692 witch trials in the village of Salem. There have been multiple versions of it over the years – movies, books, TV shows. We can’t get enough of it.
How to Hang a Witch is the young adult version of the Salem story and its repercussions 300 years later. It follows the life of Samantha Mather (yes, she has the same last name as the author), who moves to Salem from New York City with her stepmother after her father falls into a coma. She is lost and lonely, grappling with the heartache of her father’s condition. And as if that’s not enough, a group of wannabe witches called the Descendants are making sure her life at school is a living hell.
Home life isn’t getting any better either. Vivian, her stepmother, is always on her case, and a 300-year-old ghost seems to be angry at her for some reason. Then there’s the series of deaths around town that are being blamed on her. Samantha is definitely facing far more problems than any normal teenager out there.
Thankfully, our protagonist is a tough, clever and resourceful girl who faces conflict head on despite her fear. As for the love triangle, well it’s an unusual one for sure, but still just as compelling.
How to Hang a Witch will keep you guessing about why all of this is happening to Samantha. Who is behind it? Why is it happening now? Who is she going to choose – the good-looking boy or the good-looking boy?
One of the best things about the book is the research that the author has evidently put into it. If you read the Author’s Note at the end, you will learn more about the Mathers family and the real-life Cotton Mather, Samantha’s great-great-great-grandfather. The whole concept of the novel has roots in the author’s family, traced from historical research compiled over the years.
This book is a refreshing thriller with great bouts of horror, intrigue and romance. Here’s hoping the second book in this series will be released soon.
Kristyn M. Levis is a freelance writer, author and photographer based in Sydney. She is currently the managing editor of Her Collective and creative director of 3C Digital. Her first novel, The Girl Between Two Worlds, was published in 2016. Book Two, The Girl Between Light and Dark, is set for release May this year.