Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

What started out as girls' games became a witch hunt. Wicked Girls is a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials told from the perspectives of three of the real young women living in Salem in 1692.
Ann Putnam Jr. plays the queen bee. When her father suggests that a spate of illnesses within the village is the result of witchcract, Ann grasps her opportunity. She puts in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of the people around her forever.

Mercy Lewis, the beautiful servant in Ann's house, inspires adulation in some and envy in others. With a troubled past, she seizes her only chance at safety.

Margaret Walcott, Ann's cousin, is desperately in love and consumed with fiery jealousy. She is torn between staying loyal to her friends and pursuing the life she dreams of with her betothed.

With new accusations mounting daily against the men and women of the community, the girls will have to decide: is it too late to tell the truth?

A Printz Honor winner for Your Own, Sylvia, Stephanie Hemphill uses evocative verse to weave a nuanced portrait of one of the most chilling and fascinating times in our nation's history. (Taken from inside flap)

I absolutely love the Salem witch trials. They are one of my favorite time periods in history to read about. I would love to go visit Salem, Massachusetts one day. And yet, I did not like Wicked Girls at all. You would think that this would be the perfect novel for me; however, since I've read so much about this period, Wicked Girls just didn't bring anything new to the table.

For one, I did not like the writing style Stephanie Hemphill used, meaning the verse. In general, I am not a big poetry person, which usually includes verse as well. Well, I actually do like it, but only if it's done well. Key words: if it's done well. In my opinion, the verse in Wicked Girls wasn't so much as verse as "let's use really short sentence so I don't have to write a whole book."

Exhibit A, page 24:
"I sneak from my work
of spinning and darning
and unlatch the wooden box
wherein hides the necklace
too lavish to be worn upon the neck."

Like most of the novel, the lines are not very poetic, not very musical, not very verse-like. And it's not even the bad writing, it's the application of it. I just don't think that prose in general works in this kind of novel. The Salem witch trials (or any historical fiction, really) is a great setting, rife with lush detail and description. But a lot of that is lost because the author uses so few words. Another problem is that the verse does not allow the girls' motivations to be fully explained. Obviously we know they were faking it, but in the book it's so vague that for some time I thought that they were actually seeing witches. This book could have been so interesting if it wasn't so distant and actually had a plot, instead of the girls' accusing someone else every other page. Frankly, it got old.

It's unfortunate that such a great subject could be ruined by Wicked Girls, but you can't win them all. If you're actually looking for a good book on the Salem witch trials I would recommend Witch Child by Celia Rees or A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi.

5 out of 10.

FTC: I received this book from the publisher.

2010/Balzer + Bray/416 pages

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Art is in the eye of the beholder. I have written poetry and it is not how you think it should be. Stephanie Hemphill must like it and the editor must too. What I am saying is not everyone thinks like you.