Author: Katherine Howe
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile/Penguin
Pub. Date: July 1, 2014
Genre: Contemporary YA
Rec. Age Level:12+
More by this author: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The House of Velvet and Glass
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When a mysterious illness begins to afflict senior Colleen Rowley's classmates at the academically competitive St. Joan's Academy in Danvers, Massachusetts, panicked parents and hungry media swarm, armed with questions, accusations, and wild theories. Refusing to let an unknown illness jeopardize her college prospects and her rightful place at the top of her class, Colleen continues to brave the halls of St. Joan's and taking on an extra credit assignment comparing The Crucible to the real Salem Witch trials. As tensions rise, she begins to notice the undeniable similarities between the witch trials and the paranoid panic that's taken over Danvers... Is the illness an allergic reaction? An environmental side-effect? An elaborate hoax? Or could Danvers, once known as Salem Village, be plagued by an even older evil? In her first book for young adults, Katherine Howe deftly parallels the infamous Salem Witch Trials and the overwhelming societal pressures on modern teens. Conversion is an undeniably thought-provoking read with an expected twist.
Katherine Howe has established herself as an adult historical fiction author and Conversion is sure to earn her a name within the YA genre. Realistic fiction with undertones of horror, this novel alternates between the Salem Witch Trials and present-day Salem - now Danvers - where history is curiously repeating itself.
The alternating time shifts offer an interesting mashup of historical and contemporary elements, blurring the lines between past and present, fiction and reality. There are many theories about what really happened during the Salem Witch Trials, but we might never what truly motivated the dark events of that time, nor the young women that spurred the community's panic. Coupling this mysterious period in history with the corresponding, contemporary events in Danvers serves to make the entire situation more sinister and confusing.
Prior to reading this novel, I was unaware that the modern storyline was very much inspired by relatively recent true events. If you enjoy this novel, I recommend doing a bit of research to find out more. In the meantime, try not to pry - it'll make the events of the novel that much more surprising!