Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

conversionSynopsis from Goodreads
It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

I guess one of the good things about not inhabiting the blogosphere (do people even say that anymore? Can I bring it back?) is having no idea what YA books are out at the moment. I have no clue which books have been out, what old authors have released, who the hot new debut author is, what tropes are currently everywhere.

And, you know what? It’s pretty nice. You see, I can just pick up a book and read it if it’s interesting without feeling that I should be reading this because THISISWHAT’SPOPULARHYPEHYPEHYPE.

Not that I’ve ever really been mithered with stuff like that.

Anyway, let’s talk about the book. Conversion by Katherine Howe was one of the four books that I received in a package the day I came back from Australia. I won’t go into why I was confused (basically the package is from Rock the Boat, the presumably new YA imprint of Oneworld Publishing which happens to be based on Bloomsbury Street. Yes, I was confused. A fourteen hour flight will do that to you!) but when I opened it four really great books fell out. And Conversion caught my eye straight away.

Teenage girls? College applications? Boys? Uncontrollable body vibrations? Witches?

Come on, who could say no to that?

I was a little bit concerned that I hadn’t read or seen The Crucible (A Taste of Honey was our required reading) but it didn’t seem to matter. Ms Howe writes a convincing story, if not a very strange one. The story weaves from the modern day where our main character Colleen and her friends are applying for colleges, trying to keep up with homework and talking to those pesky boys to the 1700s when strange things begin to happen.

I quite liked this book because it was reasonably engaging, different and the writing was good. I’ve not read properly for so long and it was great to be drawn into a story again.

My only complaint was that I kind of wish this book had been two books and I have a feeling if it had, I probably wouldn’t have finished one of them. While I admire Ms Howe’s ability to switch between them in a way that will probably work for some people (as much as I find witchcraft interesting, my knowledge of the Salem Witch Trials is from that episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch when she goes to Salem on a school trip. I know, I know. But I’m playing the English card, more specifically the Lancashire card. The Pendle Witches are my home girls.) I much preferred Colleen’s narrative, trying to get to the bottom of whatever was happening. I struggled to get through some of the chapters in the second storyline because I found myself just wanting to get back to St Jude’s to find out what was going on with those girls.

As much as I love history, I think when it comes to my YA, I prefer it contemporary.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. The characters were interesting and the story was definitely different. If you look past the witches and the strange goings on, Ms Howe provides a really great study of teenage girls, how they are and how they treat other girls. Which, especially in this day and age, is always interesting.

While I wasn’t completely enamoured with the second storyline, I know that anyone with an interest in American history, or history in general for that matter, and the inner workings of girls and their friendship will enjoy this book.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers. 

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One thought on “Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

  1. So lovely to see you back blogging again! To be completely honest, the cover really puts me off this. But, your review has changed my mind! Have a feeling I’ve seen this around the library, so I might pick it up soonish :)

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