Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

Thursday, December 11, 2014
Why I chose this book: 
Back when I was officially on the blogging team here at Of Spectacles and Books (by the way, HI GUYS -Addison here!), I noticed this book on several blogger’s lists. I’m all about two things: I’m all about that base (no treble), AND I am all about private school intrigue. Throw that in with a mystery illness? You had me at hello. The one thing I was hesitant about was the incorporation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, but dang, it was done masterfully.

Conversion by Katherine Howe
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publish Date: July 1st, 2014
Format: Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal

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 . . .(Goodreads)
What I liked: 
Like I stated above, I love stories about private schools. The cattiness! The competition! When private school queen bee Clara Rutherford begins to have convulsions and tics in the middle of class, Colleen and her friends are shocked. As months pass, more girls begin to have these issues. This story is so addicting, it truly makes the reader wonder what is going on. Is it all for show, or is there something much more sinister going on?

While the story unfolds for Colleen and her classmates, Katherine Howe incorporates a story of colonial Salem. This was the story I wasn’t expecting, and one that made me SUPER hesitant. I am not one for historical fiction, yet this one sucked me in. The complex stories are interesting enough to stand on their own, but together, they are downright addicting.

What I loved: 
Howe cleverly reflects the importance of mental illness and self-care. Reflected within the book is the ideology of the masses: mental illness should be something to be ashamed of and hidden. Yet Howe takes this common belief and tears it to pieces. Mental illness is a real and common thing. It isn’t something to be ashamed of and is definitely something that needs equal care as anything other ailment.

Final Thoughts:
Many people on Goodreads DNF’d this book due to its length. While it is almost 500 pages, it is something I found to be well worth the read. I enjoyed the mystery and complexity that Howe delivered, even when the chapters seemed super lengthy. 

I gave this book five stars on Goodreads.

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