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. Read more...
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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?
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-04-28
- Reviewer: Staff
As she did in her adult novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Howe draws thrilling connections between the Salem witch trials and the present day in her YA debut. Colleen Rowley and her friends attend St. Joan’s Academy, a private Catholic high school in Boston that caters to girls with Harvard-size aspirations. After Colleen’s classmate Clara has a strange seizure during class, Clara develops shocking, Tourette’s-like verbal and facial tics. The condition soon spreads through the school until there are dozens of girls with inexplicable and divergent symptoms—Colleen’s friend Anjali has started coughing up pins. The school nurse and local medical professionals scroll futilely through diagnoses, and the media descends on St. Joan’s, making life a circus for the girls and their families. Howe gives Colleen a strong and sure voice, while alternating between the present-day action in 2012 and “Interludes” set in Salem Village in 1706. A chilling guessing game of a novel that will leave readers thinking about the power (and powerlessness) of young women in the past and present alike. Ages 12–up. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor. (July)
Something witchy this way comes
Senior year is a stressful time, especially at the prestigious St. Joan’s Academy for Girls, outside of Boston. Between prepping for AP History pop quizzes, jostling for class rank and trying not to compete with her friends for top college acceptances, Colleen has enough on her mind even before a mysterious illness suddenly strikes the most popular girls in school. A media frenzy follows as more and more students show strange and varied symptoms. Possible explanations abound, but none seem right to Colleen until she makes an extraordinary connection.
The primary narrative is interrupted by interludes from another voice and time: Ann Putnam Jr., a teen whose accusations helped fuel the witch hunt in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. At first the two stories are connected only by Colleen’s research into Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. But as teenage social pressure, power struggles and unexplained illness combine, the narrative threads begin to intersect in subtle and revealing ways.
Even readers who initially suspect a link between St. Joan’s and Salem are likely to be surprised by Colleen’s conclusion and its reception. With echoes of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and even “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Conversion keeps readers guessing until—and even after—the last page.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Katherine Howe for Conversion.