Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Review: Conversion


by Katherine Howe
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2014
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Conversion takes place in Danvers, MA at St. Joan's Academy, and all-girls, Catholic school. The students here are highly competitive and most vying for entrance into the best ivy league colleges in the country. Colleen Rowley is almost at the top and she is determined to become valedictorian, when suddenly the girls in her school are coming down with a Mystery Illness. Each one is affected differently, but there is something that the school isn't telling them. Slowly less and less students show up for class, and Colleen is more and more determined to battle her way to the top.

In between the chapters about Colleen and her friends and how they are suffering from crazy symptoms (sudden Tourette's-like outbursts, sudden and complete hair loss, inability to walk, and spitting up pins), is the story of Anne Putnam and the Salem witch trials. So not only do we have a group of teenage girls with these sudden and very obvious symptoms, but a fictionalized historical account of how the young women in Salem faked the entire thing. All the while, Colleen has been given an extra credit assignment on The Crucible and someone is sending her weird messages about it.

At this part, if it don't want the book spoiled for you, skip down to the end where I tell you if you should buy it or not.

It's pretty obvious that the girls are faking it. They symptoms aren't real, but the school nurse and the media have pumped it up so much that everyone has some kind of wild and crazy theory about what's happening. Despite this, I felt like it was trying to lead me to believe that there was some witchcraft or a curse or something supernatural and mystical going on to cause all this, but it's not. They determine that it's all psychological and common in girls who are overstressed, and that although the symptoms will go away because they aren't "real," they're not faking it either.

This made sense to me, but why then have this other story line about the witch trials? Just to shed light on the fact that teenage girls make stuff up so that they can get some attention when they're stressed. Let's give people a little more credit than that. I was actually hoping for something a little more mystical. At the very end, there is a hint that maybe it was due to something else, to a girl's inability to control her an emotional upheaval in her life. There is a hint that maybe there is something more to her and her family than anyone has ever really understood. But it's not hinted at enough. In fact, with everything else ending up so nice and neat and explained away by facts, that this moment was bizarre and confusing. What do I believe?

It's okay to read again!  

Despite some of these unsure moments, I was intrigued by the story and wanted to know what was happening to these girls. I'm not entirely sure that the story line of Anne Putnam was completely needed, but I did enjoy it. Conversion is worth a read, but don't expect too much of the supernatural.

Next week I'll feature Colleen Rowley in my Character Spotlight.  Keep and eye out for it!

Image Source: Goodreads

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