Conversion by Katherine Howe
Release Date - July 1, 2014Publisher Website - Penguin/Razorbill
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 432 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane comes a chilling mystery—Prep meets The Crucible.Hysteria? Mob mentality? Boredom? The events surrounding the infamous Salem witch trails are certainly well known. It may seem inconceivable that an event like this could ever happen in today's society. Conversion offers up a modern scenario of such an event. An all too easily imagined look at how something could snowball into an uncontrollable frenzy under the right circumstances. The author of Conversion however, tantalizing asks the question of what if, and has created something truly magical as a result.
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?
Tension seeps through this entire story and it does so almost immediately. Katherine Howe allows things to spiral and reveal themselves at just the right moment. She keeps the tension building which in turn creates a fast paced, page turner. The murkier, and unclear things get the more this novel shines. It is in it's element when the lines are blurred between the possibility of witchcraft and potential reality.
This novel is essentially two stories in one. We have Colleen's present day narration, and the story of what happened in Salem long ago. They parallel each each, but I found it distracting to jump back and forth. Each story was equally compelling but it was jarring to be tossed from one to the other. I would find myself just getting lost in one story, only to be ripped out of it, and taken back into the other one. It didn't flow together so that it felt like one continuous story. It, instead, felt like two different stories that just happened to have links between them. Both are needed to flesh out the message of the novel, but I felt it broke me out of the novel's spell.
The teen voice in this rang very true, and I could easily picture Colleen and her group of friends. The dialogue, particularly with her family, felt authentic. At times it felt like she perfectly captured this character and brought her to life within these pages. Equal attention was paid to the voice of Ann for the historical sections of the novel. Research was evidently done to ensure accuracy. The language and other details show the care that went into creating both character voices and settings.
In keeping with the realistic feel of the novel, the romances are no exception. They are background material that existed within the story, rather than something that propelled the story. The attachments made felt very true to life, and unhurried. Much like the rest of the novel's elements, it fit into the story instead of controlling it.
In the end, Conversion is a well written, thought provoking read that I would recommend. Those who love The Crucible especially will delight in this books many charms. Filled with striking attention to detail, and excellently crafted characters it'll have you reading late into the night.