How to Hang a Witch was gifted to me by my amazing friend (go check her out here) and I was all geared up for using it as a Halloween read! The Salem Witch Trials is a fascinating, yet tragic, event in history and. I’m all about the Salem witch trials, so I was all about this too.
I’d seen How to Hang a Witch likened to Mean Girls but with witches, and I was super excited – I’ve never met a single person who doesn’t like Mean Girls (sound off in the comments if you don’t like Mean Girls!) and after having read it, I kinda get it, but not 100%. Mean Girls has a more substantial plot, better characters and fewer plot holes. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy How to Hang a Witch – I did, I think I just expected too much from it.
How to Hang a Witch is Mather’s debut novel and you can tell. There are no astounding writing skills throughout the book.They’re satisfactory, sure, but the writing is definitely one of the lowest points of the book. The best example I can think of is that this book would have been much better without Samantha’s(the main character’s) universal and monotonous inner-thoughts.
Whilst I’m taking about Samantha, I have a few gripes with her. Allow me to elaborate.There is no doubt that the author did her homework and research, as well as took advantage of her family history to write this novel. FYI, Mather is a descendant of Cotton Mather, who was a real-life asshole in the real-life Salem Witch Trials. But I do think that the author was a bit attention-seeky in writing this. I have an inkling that Mather may not have wanted to write a book as much as she wanted to tell the world ‘Hey, I’m a Salem descendant, isn’t that cool! Aren’t I cool?’ . Now that could be me being a cynical asshole, but the thought kept cropping up whenever I thought about Samantha. I feel like Mather modeled Samantha on what she wanted to be. It was a bit cringe at times.
“The air’s crisp with the smell of autumn, and the first few leaves have started to change color. The streets have that family-friendly feel. Store windows already have pumpkins and witches’ hats in them.”
Samantha also feels like a character we see in a lot of. Especially in YA novels. I couldn’t relate to her in the slightest. She behaved in ways that were counter-intuitive at times, she was annoying and her action choices were bloody stupid at times.
But whilst I’m talking about characters, let me delve into some of the others. I really wished we’d seen more from the bitchy clique of The Descendants. These bitches were one of my favourite parts of the story, but I didn’t feel like we got enough of them, and a lot were just sheep or bitchy and cold for the sake of it. I need character development!
Elijah the ghost was also quite good, if a little odd and shoe-horned in. But hey, if witches are a real thing, why not ghosts? Elijah was uptight, quick-witted and of a different era. He’s the polar opposite of Samantha and his tragic backstory is slowly revealed throughout the book. Yet it feels totally unnecessary and honestly, it belongs in a different book.
“People believe a lot of weird stuff in Salem.”
But you know what was more unsettling than having a shoe-horned in story? A cringe-inducing love triangle. Oh I hated the love triangle in this. Asides from it being utterly, utterly needless, it was fucking awful! It was 100% gratuitous and gave me Twilight vibes. Again, it seemed like the personal fantasy of the author had been placed a bit too solidly within the narrative (just like Twilight, and likely Fifty Shades of Utter Garbage too). But this wasn’t the only Twilight vibe I got. Samantha is an absolute Bella Swan. There is nothing outstanding about her. She’s plain, relatively boring and we are given nothing to make us believe she is anything other than a painfully average teenage girl. Why would a ghost and a regular boy be sointo her? Urgh. The book would have been muchbetter without this romance bullshit.
NOT ALL YA NEEDS ROMANCE!
However, asides from some excruciatingly stereotypical characters, including a wicked stepmother, a brooding, supernatural bad-boy and bitchy teenage girls, there are some good moments. To Mather’s credit, there are very few characters who are wandering around aimlessly; most of the characters have their own specific roles to play. So I appreciated that. However I wish the characters got appropriate endings, some of them just didn’t sit right with me.
“If a man fears dogs, he may beat one with a stick when he sees it. As is the nature of all creatures, that dog will bite him. And then he may tell everyone that he was right about dogs, that they are evil. But I ask you, who is at fault in this scenario, the man or the dog?”
How to Hang a Witch felt a bit too long and then a bit too rushed. I read about 300 pages of plot and story building only to be rewarded with a very rushed, and frankly abrupt, ending. I enjoyed not know what would happen next, until I predicted it about half-way through, which was annoying. I also felt like the violence and death didn’t really have any urgency. It kinda felt blasé and ‘oh, that’s characters dead now…ok’ – there was no gravitas to the situation.
All of this brings me to believe that How to Hang a Witch might be aimed at the lower end of the YA age-range (the romance isn’t explicit in the slightest), or for people who are brand new to…well…stories. Or for the easily impressed.
How to Hang a Witch is silly, but it’s also kind of fun if you want to relax, have a palate cleanser or just look for an autumn/Halloween read and don’t have any other requirements to check your boxes.
“When change cometh, she will bring peace at her back. She will not bend to your will; you must bend to hers.”
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[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.
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