Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

“I was impressed. She had already mastered the art of not saying much of anything at all.” 
― Katherine HoweConversion


Book Title: Conversion
Author: Katherine Howe
Publication Date: 2014
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal 
Goodreads Rating: 3.42 Stars 
My Rating: 3.0 Stars
Recommended To: Anyone who is interested in the Salem Witch Trials, Anyone who likes a bit of mystery



It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

 First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic. 

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . . 

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?


1. All I needed was half the book. The novel jumped between present day (ok, 2012) and 1706 during the Salem witch trials. Except.. it wasn't. It was years after the Salem witch trials in which Ann Putnam is confessing to lying about the whole ordeal. That's cool and all, but I know that story. We all know that story. The present day portions of the book with Colleen was far, far more interesting and intense, and I wish the author would have put more time and effort into that portion of the story. I'm not saying leave out the flashbacks all together, because they did serve a purpose I think? but put much less of them.

2. Mental illness. There is serious mental illness in this novel, which is why I included the review during Mental Illness Awareness Week. (Ok, so it was a coincidence that I finished reading it now, but let's go with it, k?) Colleen is under serious pressure to get into Harvard and add .1 to her GPA to clinch valedictorian. I've been there, in school, in high pressure situations (mostly that I've put on myself), so I got where these students were coming from. The "Mystery Illness" and its effects on the students really clinched me and made me keep reading. I really, really wanted to know what was going on.

3. Colleen was... dull. For a smart girl in this novel, Colleen is clueless. She doesn't know what's going on in her friends' lives, she doesn't really care too much about the "Mystery Illness", she doesn't even care about her family all that much. Although I think that the author intended her lack of empathy to be a side-effect of her stress, it made for a really lame narrator. This novel would have benefitted from multiple POVs. (Yea, I just said that.)

With all the negativity, why did I give it a 3 star review? Well, I thought the way Colleen's story played out was truly interesting, and I felt connected to the girls at this all girls' school.

While there could have been definite improvements to this novel, overall, it wasn't a bad book, and it definitely felt like a great October read.

22 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great book!

    - Katy (http://dailykaty.com)

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  2. Seems like an interesting book! I'll have to check it out! Thanks for the review.

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  3. I will definitely be checking this book out. I loved your recommendations and honest feedback of the book. Thanks for sharing your review!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! :)

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  4. Sounds like a book I would be interested in. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I am intrigued by the idea of mental illness and societal academic pressures of young women! Could start some great conversations in a YA book club

    Chelsea
    Co-Founder of Life Love + Coffee Stains

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    1. That was really the most impactful part for me.. the societal pressures (plus the pressures that the young women put on themselves!). I certainly connected with that.

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  6. Great review! I love mysterious, suspense novels.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! You should check this novel out!

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  7. So there was a serious mental illness, but was that aspect actually labeled and explored in the book?

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    1. Without giving away the ending, the idea of anxiety and mental illness is explored on and off throughout the novel, particularly in the ending. I wouldn't classify it as a "book about Mental Illness" but it had that aspect in it for sure.

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  8. From the description, this sounds like a book that I would definitely interested in. The perfect combo of mystery and history. I'm not big into historical fiction or anything, but I love reading books based of Salem Witch Trials and the like. I hate when you can't connect with the main character. That usually ruins the book for me. I also hate that the flashbacks weren't really that interesting either. Sigh. I don't know that I'll be rushing to read this book, but it still sounds pretty interesting. I may have to add it to my to-read list.

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    1. I'm recommending it to people who are looking for an interesting, slightly suspenseful read. It's definitely not the most thought-provoking, but it was entertaining.

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  9. Well it is too bad when the main character is dull, huh? I like how you did the rating on the book cover, very cool way to do it:)

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    1. Thanks! I had a stroke of inspiration last night before I scheduled the post! :)

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  10. When I read your short synopsis at the beginning, I was really excited about this book. After reading the rest of the review, not so much. I'm all about mystery and history (ha! it rhymes!), but I also have ridiculously high standards when it comes to my books--I guess I'll skip this one, even though it seems like the premise had lots of potential.

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    1. You said it exactly right. The idea of the book is wonderful. However, in execution, maybe not the best. It did keep me reading, but overall, I was a bit let down.

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  11. Great review. I've been on the fence about reading this one. I feel like it's one that perhaps I can skip afterall.

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    1. I'm sure with a long TBR, this one could be skipped.

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