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Book Review – How to Hang a Witch

How to Hang a Witch follows Samantha Mather’s move to her dad’s hometown, Salem. As a descendent of one of the most prominent families during the Salem Witch Trials, Samantha’s always felt cursed. Bad things happen to the people around her and she’s never been sure why until she arrives in a town where people hate her and a grumpy ghost wants her to get out of his sister’s bedroom. Samantha is determined to figure out why and along the way she uncovers a mystery as old as the trials itself. 

I really liked this book. I’m actually surprised because the writing was totally suboptimal. 

I want people to read this book though, so let’s start with what I liked first. 

The plot/premise was amazing. It really was. And it was totally different. There were a lot of moments that weren’t defined enough, so it lost me a bit, but the majority of the time, the little moments weren’t completely necessary to understand the gist of the story, especially considering how badly I wanted to keep reading. I tried going back a couple of times to clear up a missing name, but the plot moved along so quickly and had so many curveballs, I just gave up and let the story take me without feeling like I needed to understand every single thing.

For instance, I think the author went above and beyond describing unimportant things while only describing key things once or twice, so then you’re sort of like, okay why are you prioritizing this lace duvet over the color of the main character’s hair?

There were a few curious things that happened in the plot that sort of threw me. Names blurred together and I really disliked reading the letters in the intense calligraphy. The big mystery they solved didn’t have as much impact as I wanted it to. I felt it wasn’t as creative as it could’ve been. I also felt like I wanted the very last pages of the book to leave me really settled and they didn’t. 

This is only because it didn’t end with as much of a bang as everything else. Like the plot was so inventive up until that point. 

But back to the things I liked.

It had a great message: You can turn something evil just by attacking it, because eventually it will fight back. It’s great that the story carried a deeper message, I hate stories that stay on the surface.

The setting. I loved the setting. The red brick roads, the black houses, the columns and architecture, the woods and cemeteries. I loved the fashion. How the Descendants dressed to the nines in floor-length black gowns. I loved how Sam was basically my spirit animal.

And I loved the romance. Our main character *SPOILER ALERT* falls in love with two people, and I thought I would hate her for it, but I didn’t. She was in a delicate place, she needed comfort and she sought it out from two men who gave her the attention she needed. 

It had a really good feeling throughout. I liked how Sam came home to a spirit, and how she always had at least someone on her side. The characters were all very admirable in their own ways. Some were stubborn and cruel. Some were surprising and caring. But they were all interesting. 

I read one review in which the reviewer described Sam’s relationship with her stepmom as A-typical, but I didn’t think so at all. Sure, the stepmom was immature and they got in some heated arguments, but there was something there, and I think that was the most surprising thing of it all. Their relationship. Especially nearing the end, you don’t expect all the things that happen between the two. 

I did feel like the author needed a little more guidance as far as the writing went. She got away with a lot I would never have let someone get away with. There was a LOT of telling going on. I caught a few places where she head-hopped, which could’ve been intentional as the story isn’t totally realistic, but I don’t think any of them were, and a lot of places where she jeopardized the story with unnecessary adjectives. And not only unnecessary, but also incredibly unadventurous. Give us something other than delicious. 

A lot of her paragraphs shouldn’t have been paragraphs. I prefer to split them up rather than mash a bunch of random sentences together. And there were too many cliché moments. The first couple pages you have a teenager grumpy with her parent’s driving because she spilled a latte on herself, and it really doesn’t get much more cliché than that. But the things that could’ve easily been cliché weren’t. The wardrobe wasn’t overindulgent and the witchcraft didn’t seem at all overdone.

There was too much description within the first four pages as well. Every room was described from top to bottom, and it really bothered me. We don’t need to know the color of all the walls because then we think those walls are important when they never are. I always prefer to have rooms described more each time the main character steps back in rather than all at once. 

Something that really bugged me, Sam describes her bedding as lace like fifty-five times. I thought it was going to end up being an important part of the story, but it never turned into anything. It sort of seemed like she was trying too hard to make sure we were aware that this house was a bit outdated and antiquated. 

She also describes a bus seat as being navy blue and pleather. It’s too much, we don’t need this detail. 

The inner dialogue was grandiose and not in a good way. She says things that are so obvious, I wish she would just leave it up to our imagination. Like, I’m glad she makes sure we know how she’s feeling, but sometimes it’s almost annoying. And there were WAAAAAY too many rhetorical questions. 

And one final thing I had trouble with. The distance from the house to the school. Apparently it’s far enough that Sam needs to be picked up, but then she appears to walk home in like three seconds flat, which leads me to believe that the author has trouble connecting actions together. So in some ways, she leads too much up to the reader’s imagination, and in other ways she doesn’t leave enough. 

But that’s it. Those are my complaints. I have virtually no complaints with the story or characters. This is a definite recommend for me. If the writing were aged up a bit, it would’ve been perfect, and we can’t have that. 

One thing I do want to mention, the author, Adriana Mather, actually is a descendent from the Salem Witch Trials, and her author note was really cool because she describes living with that and traveling to Salem to do some research. 

Good book. Read it. 

35/38

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