Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Wicked Girls, by Stephanie Hemphill

Stephanie Hemphill
Hardcover, 408 pages
July 1, 2010

(Goodreads) Wicked Girls is a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials based on the real historical characters, told from the perspective of three young women living in Salem in 1692—Mercy Lewis, Margaret Walcott, and Ann Putnam Jr.

When Ann’s father suggests that a spate of illnesses within the village is the result of witchcraft, Ann sees an opportunity and starts manifesting the symptoms of affliction. Ann looks up to Mercy, the beautiful servant in her parents' house. She shows Mercy the power that a young girl is capable of in a time when women were completely powerless. Mercy, who suffered abuse at the hands of past masters, seizes her only chance at safety. And Ann’s cousin Margaret, anxious to win the attention of a boy in her sights, follows suit. As the accusations mount against men and women in the community, the girls start to see the deadly ramifications of their actions. Should they finally tell the truth? Or is it too late to save this small New England town?
We all know the true story about the Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, girls were said to be afflicted by witchcraft and accused people in Salem of practicing the craft. When all was said and done, over a hundred men and women were imprisoned for being witches - nineteen of those people were executed. We know what happened, but why is another matter all in itself.

When I first found out about this book, I k-n-e-w that I had to read it. The Salem Witch Trials was one of my favorite subjects to study in my high school history classes. The idea of this mass hysteria to terrorize a community all over the accusations of young girls always fascinated me.

I'll be the first to admit that when I opened the book, I was surprised. I had read several reviews on Wicked Girls, but the whole idea of the book being in free verse simply alluded me until I actually saw it. I thought I was in for a challenging read - but it was just the opposite. Dare I say that it was almost spellbinding, the way this novel sucked you in.

A bit slow at first, the pace of the book picks up speed once we're fully introduced and submersed into the minds of the three girls' perspectives that the book is written from - which is Ann Putnam Jr, Mercy Lewis, and Margaret Walcott. What surprises me the most about these three is how they each have their own reasons for falsely accusing these people of witchery. There's jealousy, peer pressure, the opportunity to gain attention, bullying and so many other themes in this book that most teenage girls can relate to today. These three were probably what I would consider the mean girls of their time - Ann Putnam Jr being the ringmaster, which is surprising considering she was only twelve years old during the Trials.

If you like history and the Salem Witch Trials as much as I do, I'd definitely say that you will enjoy this book. Although fictionalized, I could definitely see these reasons being why the afflicted girls pointed fingers and accused so many like they did. I think the worse part of it all is grown men going on the word of little girls and not hard facts when putting peoples' lives at stake. However, that's a whole rant in itself, and has to do with the true Trials and not this book. Even if you're not a history buff, the themes in this book can be translated easily to modern-day situations for a decent read. I'd recommend this book for high school students and older.

*This ARC was provided by San Francisco Book Review in exchange for review. Although similar in the points made, this review was written for Missy's Reads & Reviews only. This is not the review meant for publication.


Savannah said...

This sounds like a great book. I will put it on mt tbr pile. Thanks for the review :)

Jan von Harz said...

While I did enjoy this book, I must say that the best fictional account of this era is a book by Ann Rinaldi called a Break With Charity.

Must Love Books said...

Oh good! I've had this book in my tbr pile for about 4 or 5 months now and I hadn't seen any reviews for it. I'm glad you liked it!

Mina Burrows said...

Okay. So...I'm hooked. Where do I sign? Gotta get this book. Thanks for the review. :)

Carina said...

I loved this book! So glad you enjoyed it.

Katie said...

I am so excited about this book. I love everything Salem

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