Thursday, July 29, 2010

ARC Tour & Review: Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill

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?

I'm not normally a historical fiction enthusiast and not that Wicked Girls is supposed to be an accurate capturing of this period in history per say, but there was something about the cover and description of this book that had me really wanting to get my hands on it.  I will admit that while I still don't consider myself to be a big fan of historical texts, I was glad I gave this book a chance.

Stephanie Hemphill took me by surprise by writing the entire book in verse (which had me about as excited as I would be to go to the dentist) but actually turned out to be a great thing.  She turned my opinion around immediately.  It may have been in verse, but to me it wasn't like the daunting verse I read in school, this read more like a diary entry from each of the girls.  From the perspectives of three of the young girls who were accusers during the Salem Witch trials it was almost spellbinding.  I can't imagine it being as powerful if it had been written any other way.

I've read the historical accounts from the Salem trials in many classrooms, and who didn't see Winona Ryder in The Crucible?  So I knew what to expect in some way from this book, but just like before, as soon as the action started I couldn't believe these young girls could possibly have wielded so much power and such extremes as controlling the very lives and deaths of others.  All sparking from the desire to be noticed, jealousy of others, and outright greed and malicious natures, these girls held and controlled the lives of an entire village.  It terrifies me every time I think about it.  Once the girls get things moving, everything quickly gets way out of control, but what now?  The only way to set things right would be to confess all, and how can they do that?  I admit I'd be scared to come clean too.

I found my first experience with Hemphill's writing to be surprising and very dramatic.  She has an amazing ability to bring out feelings and overall portrays the haunting words of the three girls like no one else I've seen or read could.  I may not be a historical fiction convert but I was entertained the whole way through.

I gave Wicked Girls 3 shamrocks!!!


  1. I'm interested in the Salem witch trials, and I actually had this as a waiting on Wednesday pick way back. I haven't seen many reviews of it around, though. The fact that it's written in verse is kinda putting me off...even though maybe it shouldn't. :-/

  2. While the premise interesting I tend to balk at the verse thing. Not sure why and I should get past my prejudices since your review is so positive! Thanks!

    Teens Read & Write



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