Senior year is a stressful time, especially at the prestigious St. Joan’s Academy for Girls, outside of Boston. Between prepping for AP History pop quizzes, jostling for class rank and trying not to compete with her friends for top college acceptances, Colleen has enough on her mind even before a mysterious illness suddenly strikes the most popular girls in school. A media frenzy follows as more and more students show strange and varied symptoms. Possible explanations abound, but none seem right to Colleen until she makes an extraordinary connection.

The primary narrative is interrupted by interludes from another voice and time: Ann Putnam Jr., a teen whose accusations helped fuel the witch hunt in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. At first the two stories are connected only by Colleen’s research into Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. But as teenage social pressure, power struggles and unexplained illness combine, the narrative threads begin to intersect in subtle and revealing ways.

Even readers who initially suspect a link between St. Joan’s and Salem are likely to be surprised by Colleen’s conclusion and its reception. With echoes of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and even “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Conversion keeps readers guessing until—and even after—the last page.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Katherine Howe for Conversion.

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