Book Review: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Author Adriana Mather is a real-life descendant of Cotton Mather. In some ways, this young adult novel is inspired by her real-life interest in her family’s history. In the novel, Samantha Mather, a descendant of Cotton Mather, moves to Salem with her step-mother. Her father is in a coma, and life in New York is too expensive with all those medical bills. The move to Salem allows Sam to live in her family’s home, a place her father abandoned. All the while, Sam believes she is cursed: from a young age, terrible things have happened to her friends and family—including her mother’s death and her father’s coma.

When she arrives in Salem, she discovers that the whole town is obsessed with witches and ghosts. Not only that, but the history of the infamous witch trials seems to have bled into modern life. “The Descendants” are a group of teenagers who all happen to descend from those accused and sentenced during the trials, and they are none too happy to learn that Sam is a descendant of their accuser.

Before long, it’s clear that the accidents are coincidences are more intentional than that, and Sam is forced to work with the Descendants to figure it out. In the mix, there is a love interest as well as a handsome ghost—a real ghost. Everything else is spoilers, so I’ll stop there with the plot.

I enjoyed the read. Since I enjoy ghost stories, it was a fun, fast read. In the early chapters, it seemed Samantha’s voice was unpolished. The novel is told through her first-person perspective, and there were a few points where she slipped into slang—words spelled the way she would speak them. This was inconsistent throughout the novel, though, so when it happened it stood out in a bad way.

The plot was not too obvious, leaving me wanting to read more, though parts of it felt a bit too convenient, expecting the reader to readily accept a bit too much. The ghost, for instance, was a fun feature in the novel, but it seemed too convenient to have a ghost that was both attractive and helpful and could perform feats of—well, deus ex machina when needed.

As Halloween and autumn seep into the summer, it was a fun read with references to the history and locations of Salem.

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