Friday, December 19, 2014

Conversion by Katherine Howe

Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile 
Series: Stand Alone
Pages: 402
Genre: Contemporary Thriller
Synopsis: 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 . . .

Review:  The Salem witch trials really fascinate me, and I was instantly drawn to this book.  It is an interesting take on not only the events in Salem, but an intense outbreak of a similar disease in modern time.  

Conversion had a perfect aura of unease and tension needed for this sort of topic.  The events at St. Joan's Academy mirror those of the Salem witch trials in a way that makes them related, but not exactly the same.  The only issue I had with that is how I was vaguely bored by the chapters set in past Salem.  I would sigh and push through when the chapters came along.  They did not grab my attention as much as the story unfolding at St. Joan's.  And as much as I enjoyed the reasoning of why the girls in Salem did what they did in the end, I did not really see the need for the chapters to be in the book. They seemed kind of pointless. 

Anyway, Howe managed to create a fairly realistic portrayal of a high school and teenage students. And not only that, but the Mystery Illness felt plausible, not some made up disease created for the intentions of the story.  This book had this haze of eeriness and obscurity that was really well done. The writing did not have any special quality to it, but the book was well written and concise.  The plot was paced well and I was satisfied with the conclusion, which does leave you questioning, but in a good way, not in a way that made it seem insufficient.  Conversion kept my attention and never lost it. 

The characters were all extremely diverse and distinct.  Every single one had a certain personality. None of them lacked in characterization.  They were convincing and I really enjoyed that.  It is hard to say who I liked the best, though.  None of them really stood out to me in a way that made me love them, no matter how well they were written.  I do like how the romance rook a back seat in this book. The focus is on the Mystery Illness, as it should be.  

This book made me think and want to research more about the topic, which doesn't often happen.  It was well thought out and well executed.  I have no real issues with the story over all, except the minor case of a strange relationship between a teacher and a student, which I did not find incredibly interesting.  It was an intriguing read that I really enjoyed, I definitely suggest it!  

4 Stars

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