Conversion by Katherine Howe

Strange things are happening to the girls in Danvers, Massachusetts. Specifically, the girls at the super-competitive private school St. Joan’s Academy. One day, the most popular girl in school falls ill in the middle of class and is quickly followed by her closest friends. The world explodes with this news as more and more girls get sick. In the middle of all of this is Colleen who happens to be reading “The Crucible” for extra credit. She asks the question that no one else dares to–what if the girls are faking it?

conversion_cover__spanFirst off, I thought the cover was really cool and that’s what initially drew me to it and then I thought the premise of the book was interesting so I decided to give it a try. I haven’t read “The Crucible” but I’ve seen the movie and so I’m sort of familiar with the storyline. I thought this book had a lot of promise, but it didn’t necessarily pan out. I felt like the book had no real resolution in the end and that left things feeling unresolved.

Good things: I liked that it switched back and forth between Salem Village and Danvers. I don’t always like the back-and-forth thing in books, but I felt like it worked this time and gave the book more depth. I also liked Colleen and her family. Colleen was a really likable character to me whereas the narrator from Salem Village was not. This was actually another reason why having the different narrators was interesting. There was a big contrast between the two girls because they had very distinct voices. That just seems like something that would be hard to do for one author. So props to Ms. Howe I guess.

Overall, I thought the book was just okay. For some strange reason I was kind of scared to read it at night even though it’s not really a scary book. Something about the Salem witch trials gives me the heebie jeebies I guess. So if you’re looking for a light and happy read, this is definitely not the one for you.

Overall Rating: 3
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate
Language: Moderate? (Sorry, I don’t quite remember! But since it’s a book about high school, I think this is a safe bet.)
Smoking/Drinking: Mild

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Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

“What follows is the strange and fateful tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. The boy possessed uncommon qualities, the girl was winsome and daring, and the ancient ghost…well, let it only be said that his intentions were good.” Jeremy Johnson Johnson (no, that’s not a typo) lives in the town of Never Better. His sole companion at the beginning of this book is Jacob Grimm (of Grimm Brothers fame). Over the course of one summer, Jeremy finds himself in the middle of his very own, real-life fairy tale.0375849726.01.LZZZZZZZ

This book was…interesting. It started out with those first two lines and I was hooked. But after reading a couple more pages, I started to slip off the line. I’ll start with the things that I liked. I liked that Jacob Grimm (the ghost) was the narrator because he was more of an observer than a character which created an interesting perspective. Next, I–perhaps surprisingly–really liked the character of Jeremy’s dad. Even though he’s a bit of a slob at the beginning of the book, I think you can still tell that he loves Jeremy, he’s just gotten a little lost in himself. Overall I liked the characters in this book and thought they were interesting (with a couple of exceptions that I’ll mention later).

I also liked that the book had its moments of unpredictability. I’m usually pretty good at guessing plots and even though I had my suspicions, I was still doubting myself right up until my suspicions were confirmed. I liked that.

Okay, now some not-so-good things. Foreshadowing. It’s okay to use it once or twice, but by the third time I think your reader’s going to be a little tired of hearing “…but this is nothing compared to what will happen later” or “…if only I had known what evil would befall us.” These are not direct quotes, but they’re pretty close.

Another thing that kept me from loving the book was that I didn’t like Ginger! Sorry everyone. She seemed very flaky to me and I wasn’t convinced, even at the end of the book, that she preferred Jeremy over Conk (yes, that’s his name–Conk). The other character that didn’t do it for me was Deputy McRaven. I won’t spoil it, but he ends up having a secret that’s way weird and kind of unnecessary to the plot in my opinion.

Overall a pretty interesting read that turned suddenly (and a bit uncomfortably) dark in the end. The beginning of the book is very light in tone (apart from the gloomy foreshadowing), but once you get to about the last 100 pages, things take a nasty turn. So readers beware.

Overall Rating: 3
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: None
Language: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. No underage smoking or drinking.