Thursday, August 25, 2016

Title: How to Hang a Witch
Author: Adriana Mather
Narrator(s): Adriana Mather
Series: How to Hang a Witch, book #1
Length: 10 hrs 41 mins
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, Listening Library
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Source: ARC received from publisher, audiobook received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

It's kind of funny to me how varied the reviews have been for this book. I guess you either like witchy books or you don't? But it probably goes deeper than that. How to Hang a Witch came highly recommended to me by a close friend, so I already had pretty high expectations for the novel. And then the publisher sent both the ARC and the audio for review, and it was rather an obvious decision. I switched between the two formats as I read, and I honestly don't know which version I prefer.

The author narrates her own book and I almost always love that because they know the inflections they intended, how long a pause should be and any accents or pronunciations that might not come through in the standard text version. However, I found the audio a little too...slow. I think all audiobooks are slow, though, which is why I usually speed up the playback to twice the normal speed. My husband thinks I'm listening to chipmunks or the Gilmore Girls, but it's what works best for me. Audiobooks available on the new Volumes app from Random House, however, don't have this feature, which kind of sucks because that's how review copies are sent out now. Bummer, but it's a doable bummer. It only changes the listening experience slightly, and it's no fault of the actual narration, which was actually good otherwise.

This novel was definitely different. I just love a good witch story, though...especially one so steeped in history. You've got the mean girls. The historical aspect. The ghost and practicing witches. And then you've got an author descended from Cotton Mather himself. I genuinely enjoyed the novel and found that the story as a whole came together in a very pleasing fashion: very The Craft meets Hocus Pocus with a bit of real-life history thrown in for good measure.

Here's the thing: I like a really atmospheric read. And this book was exactly that. I just wish I'd read it during the fall when I definitely will be rewatching Hocus Pocus, The Craft, and all of my other Halloween favorites. A gorgeous summer day just didn't cut it for me. So, maybe that has something to do with why some aren't loving this book. I think listening and reading put me in the right frame of mind for this story eventually, but obviously not everyone will have that opportunity bestowed upon them like I did.

This story also lends itself to a lot of theorizing. And some will find it easy to guess what's really going on -- like I did -- while others will find themselves led astray easily, guessing all manner of outcomes. I suppose part of your reading enjoyment will be derived from how you feel about guessing correctly and possibly early.

Also: how you feel about doomed romances and love triangles in general. Both are sort of present to some degree, but I honestly thought they took a backstage to everything else. The author uses key historical events to make events in the book more relevant - and creepy - and I found that aspect much more enjoyable.

The entire story was compelling and very readable, from the ostracized Mather in a town of witch descendants to the ghost stuck on this earthly plane to the curse that encompasses them all. I'll definitely be featuring How to Hang a Witch on my fall and Halloween favorites lists. And I'm pretty excited to see that there's going to be a sequel now. The ending was satisfying, but I can't help wanting more.


GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

Adriana Mather is the 12th generation of Mathers in America, and as such her family has their fingers in many of its historical pies – the Mayflower, the Salem Witch Trials, the Titanic, the Revolutionary War, and the wearing of curly white wigs. Also, Adriana co-owns a production company, Zombot Pictures, in LA that has made three feature films in three years. Her first acting scene in a film ever was with Danny Glover, and she was terrified she would mess it up. In addition, her favorite food is pizza and she has too many cats.

Find Adriana:

WebsiteTwitter | Goodreads | Instagram


  1. You got me hooked! I'll keep this one my radar. Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed reading your review. I didn't know about this book but I'm intrigued now. I love YA historical fiction and stories about witches and curses.

  3. I have been interesting in this book. My students (high school juniors) read Conversion, which is a bit like this it seems.
    Good to know that the Volumes app doesn't allow you to speed up the narration. I have used that feature occasionally in audible or overdrive. Thanks for the heads up!


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