Reviewed by Rita
15 year old Samantha “Sam” Mather is cursed. Her father is in a coma and her stepmother tells her that mounting medical bills make it necessary to sell their New York home and move into her deceased grandmother’s house in Salem, Massachusetts. This is when things really get bad. Sam is starting a new school in a new city and everyone hates her as soon as they hear the name Mather.
Sam is descended from Cotton Mather who was instrumental in starting the Salem witch trials and that doesn’t sit well with the Descendants whose ancestors were hanged during the trails. As soon as she gets to town, bad things start happening to those around her. In an effort to make a good impression she takes pastries to her homeroom class, but everyone that eats them gets sick -- except for Sam. When she attends a party with kids from school, everyone gets a terrible rash -- except for Sam. It doesn’t take long for suspicion to fall upon her.
Sam soon finds out that this curse has affected Salem for 300 years, but only when a descendant from each family involved in the witch trials is present in town. Her arrival completes the requirement triggering the curse and when people start to die, Sam becomes determined to find a way to stop the curse before it takes her father. In order to stop the curse she must first find the source and that will require her to work with the Descendants, the very girls who want to get rid of her.
I thoroughly enjoyed this young adult novel. The characters were interesting and the story moved at a good pace. Author Adriana Mather is a twelfth generation descendant of Cotton Mather and spent time in Salem researching her family history for this novel. The book touches on just enough facts regarding the Salem witch trials to develop the story without bogging it down with a history lesson. However, it has compelled to me to further research the witch trials on my own as it has been a LONG time since my last history class.
I believe How to Hang a Witch will appeal to a much wider audience than just young adults. It has mystery, action, conflicted love, and a touch of the supernatural. I found it engrossing and entertaining with a surprise ending that has me hoping for future books about young Sam Mather.