Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Teen Tuesday

Conversion by Katherine Howe (G.P. Putnam's Son's Books for Young Readers hardcover, 1 July 2014).

In 1692, in Salem Village (now Danvers), Massachusetts, a young girl began to act strangely.  It didn't take long for the convulsions, tics and other bizarre actions to affect other girls in the village. Since doctors were able to pinpoint no physical cause, the symptoms were attributed to witchcraft.  During the course of about a year, nearly 200 residents of the Village were accused of  being practicing witches, and 19 were put to death.

Late in 2012, in Le Roy, New York, high school students began reporting unexplainable symptoms including Tourette's-like verbal tics, seizures, and other physical tics.  There were many theories as to what caused these problems, including environmental pollution (Erin Brockovich was even called in) conversion disorder, and PANDAS.

Katherine Howe has taken these two similar incidents, woven them together and created the riveting novel that is Conversion.

Senior year at the prestigious (fictional) St. Joan's Academy is tough.  As well as keeping up their grades, there are college applications, graduation (the battle for the valedictorian position is hard-fought) and extracurriculars.

Clara Rutherford, school "royalty", begins twitching in the middle of class.  Soon other students are convulsing, losing hair, and coughing violently.  Again, physicians and psychologists are stumped.  The students, faculty, and parents are in turmoil.  Blame is being passed around and around.

Howe alternates chapters of the present-day story with a similar one set in Salem Village in the Seventeenth Century.  The parallels are striking.

The conclusion of the historical story is predictable; that of the Twenty-first Century is unexpected.
Prepare to be enthralled, and provoked into investigating the true stories that inspired Katherine Howe.

FTC Full Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from my local library.

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