How to Hang a Witch

How to Hang a Witch

4.8 13
by Adriana Mather

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Jennifer Niven, bestselling author of All the Bright Places says "I am utterly addicted to Adriana Mather's electric debutIt keeps you on the edge of your seat, twisting and turning with ghosts, witches, an ancient curse, and— sigh— romance. It's beautiful. Haunting. The characters are vivid and real. &


Jennifer Niven, bestselling author of All the Bright Places says "I am utterly addicted to Adriana Mather's electric debutIt keeps you on the edge of your seat, twisting and turning with ghosts, witches, an ancient curse, and— sigh— romance. It's beautiful. Haunting. The characters are vivid and real.  I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down." 

It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

“It's like Mean Girls meets history class in the best possible way.” —Seventeen Magazine

"Mather shines a light on the lessons the Salem Witch Trials can teach us about modern-day bullying — and what we can do about it."—

"Strikes a careful balance of creepy, fun, and thoughtful." —NPR

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When her father's illness forces 15-year-old Samantha "Sam" Mather and her stepmother to move to Salem, Mass., her family's connection to the witch trials makes Sam a target of the Descendants, girls whose ancestors were among the accused witches. After Sam befriends a charming young ghost named Elijah, she begins to piece together just how much of Salem's past continues to haunt its present; forming a tentative truce with the Descendants may be the only way to break a 300-year-old curse. Inspired by her own lineage to Cotton Mather, debut author Mather infuses the story with a rich history of real places and events to anchor its more fantastical elements, including a supernatural love triangle involving Elijah, secret rooms, and hidden compartments containing ancient writings. Witty repartee can seem too irreverent in passages where the teenage characters are facing (and sometimes succumbing to) death, but Mather crafts an entertaining story that draws intriguing parallels between the 17th-century trials and modern-day bullying, as well as the fears and mob mentalities behind both. Ages 12–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (July)
From the Publisher
“[A]n entertaining story that draws intriguing parallels between the 17th-century trials and modern-day bullying”
Publishers Weekly

"Mather delivers a timely condemnation of bullying and the politics of mass hysteria, while still completely charming her readers with large doses of suspense and steamy attraction." —Shelf Awareness
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Samantha Mather's life has been turned upside down after her father becomes ill and slips into an unexplained coma. Uprooted from New York, Sam's father is placed in a Boston medical facility while Sam and her stepmother move into her father's house in Salem, MA. As a direct descendant of the infamous Cotton Mather of the Salem witch trials, Sam is shunned by most of the town and becomes a target at school of the Descendants, a powerful clique of progeny of those murdered as a result of the trials. As strange and unexplainable events occur, the teen realizes that there are dark forces at work in Salem that are beyond her ability to fight. Help comes from the least likely of places—a disgruntled 324-year-old ghost named Elijah. Together they uncover clues about an evil curse plaguing the town and must join with the Descendants if they hope to stop the deadly cycle from continuing. Mather's brilliantly written novel is full of twists and turns, spine-tingling drama, and ghostly encounters. The vibrant characters leap off the page, and the narrative is incredibly deep—addressing issues such as acceptance, bullying, loyalty, hatred, revenge, and being true to yourself and destiny—all perfectly packaged without being simplistic or preachy. VERDICT A captivating and highly recommended read. Teens will not want this tale to end.—Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY
Kirkus Reviews
When Cotton Mather's lineal descendant, several generations along, moves to modern-day Salem, Massachusetts, she triggers a curse that's been in effect since 1692.Bad luck has dogged those around 15-year-old Sam Mather all her life, and now her dad is in a mysterious coma that's strained finances so much that she and her stepmother have left New York to live in the ancestral manse, the home of Sam's late, estranged grandmother. In short order Sam earns the enmity of the Descendants, weird kids who wear black and claim to be descended from the infamous trials' accused witches. She also becomes acquainted with cute boy-next-door Jaxon, who seems determined to like her, and hot ghost Elijah, whose initial hostility modulates quickly to attraction. But bad stuff keeps happening, including deaths. Could there be a connection to the centuries-old trials? Duh. Author Mather, also a descendant, claims in an afterword to be trying to plumb the forces that lead to witch hunts, both historical and modern, but her book is far less nuanced than that intention suggests. Sam is drawn alternately to Jaxon and Elijah (the rules governing his corporeality are conveniently fluid), tries to earn the trust of the Descendants, and fights with her stepmother before the wildly confusing climax. Readers familiar with the real history are likely to gnash their teeth at the book's simplistic liberties.Pure contrivance—nothing more. (Paranormal romance. 12-16)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
HL570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Too Confident

Like most fast-­talking, opinionated New Yorkers, I have an affinity for sarcasm. At fifteen, though, it’s hard to convince anyone that sarcasm’s a cultural thing and not a bad attitude. Especially when your stepmother can’t drive, ’cause she’s also from New York, and spills your coffee with maniacal brake pounding.

I wipe a dribble of hazelnut latte off my chin. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. I love wearing my coffee.”

Vivian keeps her hand poised over the horn, like a cat waiting to pounce. “All your clothes have holes in them. Coffee isn’t your problem.”

If it’s possible for someone to never have an awkward moment, socially or otherwise, then that someone is my stepmother. When I was little, I admired her ability to charm roomfuls of people. Maybe I thought it would rub off on me—­an idea I’ve since given up on. She’s perfectly put together in a way I’ll never be, and my vegan leather jacket and torn black jeans drive her crazy. So now I just take joy in wearing them to her dinner parties. Gotta have something, right?

“My problem is, I don’t know when I’ll see my dad,” I say, staring out at the well-­worn New England homes, with their widow’s walks and dark shutters.

Vivian’s lips tighten. “We’ve been through this a hundred times. They’ll transfer him to Mass General sometime this week.”

“Which is still an hour from Salem.” This is the sentence I’ve repeated since I found out three weeks ago that we had to sell our New York apartment, the apartment I’ve spent my entire life in.

“Would you rather live in New York and not be able to pay your father’s medical bills? We have no idea how long he’ll be in a coma.”

Three months, twenty-­one days, and ten hours. That’s how long it’s already been. We pass a row of witch-­themed shops with dried herbs and brooms filling their windows.

“They really love their witches here,” I say, ignoring Vivian’s last question.

“This is one of the most important historical towns in America. Your relatives played a major role in that history.”

“My relatives hanged witches in the sixteen hundreds. Not exactly something to be proud of.”

But in truth, I’m super curious about this place, with its cobblestone alleys and eerie black houses. We pass a police car with a witch logo on the side. As a kid, I tried every tactic to get my dad to take me here, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He’d say that nothing good ever happens in Salem and the conversation would end. There’s no pushing my dad.

A bus with a ghost-­tour ad pulls in front of us. Vivian jerks to a stop and then tailgates. She nods at the ad. “There’s a nice provincial job for you.”

I crack a smile. “I don’t believe in ghosts.” We make a right onto Blackbird Lane, the street on the return address of the cards my grandmother sent me as a child.

“Well, you’re the only one in Salem who feels that way.” I don’t doubt she’s right.

For the first time during this roller coaster of a car ride, my stomach drops in a good way. Number 1131 Blackbird Lane, the house my dad grew up in, the house he met my mother in. It’s a massive two-­story white building with black shutters and columned doorways. The many peaks of the roof are covered with dark wooden shingles, weathered from the salty air. A wrought-­iron fence with pointed spires surrounds the perfectly manicured lawn.

“Just the right size,” Vivian says, eyeing our new home.

The redbrick driveway is uneven with age and pushed up by tree roots. Vivian’s silver sports car jostles as we make our way through the black arched gate and roll to a stop.

“Ten people could live here and never see each other,” I reply.

“Like I said, just the right size.”

I pull my hair into a messy ball on top of my head and grab the heavy duffel bag at my feet. Vivian’s already out of the car, and her heels click against the brick. She makes her way toward a side door with an elaborate overhang.

I take a deep breath and open my car door. Before I get a good look at our new home, a neighbor comes out of her blue-­on-­blue house and waves enthusiastically.

“Helllloooo! Well, hello there!” she says with a smile bigger than I’ve ever seen on a stranger as she crosses a patch of lawn to get to our driveway.

She has rosy cheeks and a frilly white apron. She could have stepped out of a housekeeping magazine from the 1950s.

“Samantha,” she says, and beams. She holds my chin to inspect my face. “Charlie’s daughter.”

I’ve never heard anyone call my dad by a nickname. “Uh, Sam. Everyone calls me Sam.”

“Nonsense. That’s a boy’s name. Now, aren’t you pretty. Too skinny, though.” She steps back to get a proper look. “We’ll fix that in no time.” She laughs a full, tinkling laugh.

I smile, even though I’m not sure she’s complimenting me. There’s something infectious about her happiness. She examines me, and I cross my arms self-­consciously. My duffel bag falls off my shoulder, jerking me forward. I trip.

“Jaxon!” she bellows toward her blue house without saying a word about my clumsiness. A blond guy who looks seventeenish exits the side door just as I get hold of the duffel strap. “Come take Samantha’s bag.”

As he gets closer, his sandy hair flops into his eyes. Blue. One corner of his mouth tilts in a half smile. I stare at him. Am I blushing? Ugh, so embarrassing. He reaches for the bag, now awkwardly hanging from my elbow.

I reposition it onto my shoulder. “No, it’s fine.”

“This is my son, Jaxon. Isn’t he adorable?” She pats him on the cheek.

“Mom, really?” Jaxon protests.

I smile at them. “So, you know my dad?”

“Certainly. And I knew your grandmother. Took care of her and the house when she got older. I know this place inside and out.” She puts her hands on her hips.

Vivian approaches, frowning. “Mrs. Meriwether? We spoke on the phone.” She pauses. “You have the keys, I assume?”

“Sure do.” Mrs. Meriwether reaches into her apron pocket and retrieves a set of skeleton keys rubbed smooth in places from years of use. She glances at her watch. “I’ve got chocolate croissants coming out of the oven any minute now. Jaxon will give you a tour of—­”

“No, that’s alright. We can show ourselves around.” There’s a finality in Vivian’s response. Vivian doesn’t trust overly friendly people. We had a doorman once who used to bring me treats, and she got him fired.

“Actually,” I say, “do you know which room used to be my dad’s?”

Mrs. Meriwether lights up. “It’s all ready for you. Up the stairs, take a left, all the way down the hall. Jaxon will show you.”

Vivian turns around without a goodbye. Jaxon and I follow her to the door.

Jaxon watches me curiously as we go inside. “I’ve never seen you here before.”

“I’ve never been here before.”

“Even when your grandmother was alive?” He closes the door behind us with a click.

“I never met my grandmother.” It’s weird to admit that.

In the front foyer are piles of boxes—­all of our personal belongings from the City. Vivian sold everything heavy when she found out this place was furnished.

We step past the boxes into an open space with glossy wooden floors, a wrought-iron chandelier, and a giant staircase. Vivian’s heels click somewhere down the hallway to the left—­a sound that follows her around like a shadow. As a child, I could always find her by listening for it, even in a roomful of women in high heels. I wouldn’t be surprised if she slept in those shoes.

I take in our home for the first time. Paintings in gold frames hang on the walls, separated by sconces with bulbs shaped like candles. Everything’s antique and made of dark wood, the opposite of our modern apartment in NYC. This is some fairy-­tale storybook business, I think, looking at the curved staircase with its smooth wooden banisters and Oriental rug running up the middle.

“This way.” Jaxon nods toward the staircase. He lifts my bag off my shoulder and starts up the stairs.

“I could’ve carried that myself.”

“I know. But I wouldn’t want you to fall again. Stairs do more damage than driveways.” So he definitely saw me trip. He smiles at my expression.

This guy is too confident for his own good. I follow him, holding the banister in case my clumsiness makes a second appearance.

Jaxon turns left at the top of the stairs. We pass a bedroom with a burgundy comforter and a canopy that any little girl would go bonkers over. After the bedroom, there’s a bathroom with a giant claw-­foot tub and a mirror with a gold-­plated frame.

He stops at the end of the hall in front of a small door that looks like it could use a fresh coat of paint. The doorknob’s shaped like a flower with shiny brass petals. A daisy, maybe? I twist it, and the wood groans as the door swings open.

I gasp.


Meet the Author

Adriana Mather is the 12th generation of Mathers in America, with family roots stretching back to the first Thanksgiving, the Salem Witch Trials, the Revolutionary War, and the Titanic. Adriana co-owns Zombot Pictures, a production company that makes feature films. In addition to producing, Adriana is also an actress. She lives in Los Angeles where she has a life full of awesome, cats, and coffee. Follow Adriana on Twitter, @AdrianaMather.

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How to Hang a Witch 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I absolutely adore this book. I read it as a manuscript, and I read it as an ARC, and I am going to buy the finished version when it comes out, and I love it more every time. It's so charming and spooky and witchy and twisty, and also it features my grumpy ghost boyfriend, who I shall not share with anybody else, even though I understand if everybody comes away from this wanting a ghost boyfriend of their very own. Go find your own. This one is mine. But seriously, more to the point, what a fun ride this is! Witches and ghosts and--well, not so much a haunted house as an entire haunted town--plus creeeeeeeeeeeeeepy magic and a big dose of history that never feels heavy-handed, all wrapped up in the story about the thoroughly wonderful and believable teenage Sam who just wants her beloved father to be well and her new life in a new town not to not suck so much, what with its bullies and mean girls and unhelpful teachers and difficult parents and, oh, also the ghosts. It's a wonderfully fresh take on witchcraft and the legacy of Salem. I'm very much looking forward to the sequel to see what other folklore and history Adriana Mather decides to explore!
Anonymous 5 months ago
The first thing I wanted to do when I finished this story was book a trip to Salem! It hit all my reading sweet spots - paranormal, suspense, mystery, history, and humor set in the most perfect locale for it! What also adds to the vibe is the fact that author Adriana Mather is a descendant of one of the key players in the witch trials. The writing simply rocks and the characters leap off the page. Another area Mather really excels at is dialogue and humor. It just feels right - all of it. The story itself is intricate and multilayered with zero excess. Each creepy twist and turn enriches the mystery. I flew through this story and now just want to see what happens next to main character Samantha. Loved it and highly, highly recommend it!
brittanysbookrambles 5 months ago
4.5/5 Stars For ages, I have been looking for that perfect Halloweeny read, and I've finally found it! It's witchy without being too creepy, and being the big scaredy-cat that I am, the latter is extremely important. I'm fascinated and horrified by the history of the Salem witch trials, and How to Hang a Witch uses that history and turns it into a spooky and romantic story. I really identified with the main character's voice, and I now have a new book boyfriend in Elijah—a swoony ghost with a sad and dark past. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of the movie The Craft, which I loooooved growing up, but a cuter version! Once I got to the middle of the story, I was tearing through the pages! I couldn't get enough of the story and all the romantic scenes were amazing. The book ends in a way that makes you want to rip your hair out—but in a good way haha. When I reached the end, I couldn't believe it. It left me with so many questions and hopes, but I have no idea what's going to happen in the sequel. I needed more, and now I have to wait over a year for the next book! Alas, I will eagerly await the sequel... until I get it, I'll just have to push this book on everyone I know haha. Full review:
SMParker 5 months ago
This book rocked my Salem Witch Trials-fascinated heart. Mather has done something really spectacular here and I’m so thrilled this is a series. HOW TO HANG A WITCH has everything I wanted: a cute boy, a ghost boy, a strong and determined main character. The MC has a pressing need to uncover her family’s secrets and their relationship to Salem’s history, but she also must undergo the ultimate journey to discover who she is, what marks her. Will it be the past or her chosen future, or a combination of both? As a girl who ventured to Salem, Massachusetts many times as a teen, I felt like Mathers nailed the historic atmosphere and the palpable history that still seems to breathe along the streets, shops and people of this town. I’ll leave you with this little gem from the book and my highest recommendation to pick up this debut novel: “The shadows on the black, decrepit walls look alive in the moonlight.”
KathyMacMillan 5 months ago
In the 1690s, the Salem Witch Trials consumed the town of Salem, Massachusetts in a frenzy of accusations, mass hysteria, and executions. There’s a reason the Witch Trials still loom large in the popular imagination. They demonstrate the very basest bits of human nature: the instinct to raise oneself up by pushing others down, and the tendency of ordinary people to remain silent out of fear, allowing astonishing atrocities to go unchecked. In How to Hang a Witch, we meet Samantha Mather, modern-day descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Witch Trials. Her coming to Salem triggers a series of events that parallel the horrors of the Trials, and she must work with the descendants of the accused witches and the ghost who haunts her house to break the cycle of violence they represent. Author Adriana Mather, herself an actual descendant of Cotton Mather, draws keen parallels between the Trials and modern-day bullying, demonstrating the ways that “group silence can be a death sentence”. Samantha is a fierce and winning heroine, and the setting and events of the story are presented with a creepy verisimilitude that had this scaredy-cat sleeping with the lights on. A terrific, involving read that is sure to ignite many discussions.
MarisaR 5 months ago
What a wild ride! I whipped through the pages of the cinematic and creeptastic HOW TO HANG A WITCH because I HAD to know what would happen next. The story follows Samantha Mather’s return to Salem, MA, home of the infamous Salem Witch Trials. As a direct descendant of Cotton Mather, Samantha’s return reignites a curse wherein tragic things, even death, befall the families of the town’s original descendants. Samantha’s own father, currently in a coma in a nearby hospital, is at risk so there is a ticking clock on Samantha’s need to find answers. With well-drawn characters, just enough swoon (hello, Elijiah), mystery, and an inspiring overall message, Mather has penned a winner. I can’t wait to watch the incredible journey that I know HOW TO HANG A WITCH will have.
QuinnenDonnelly 5 months ago
Anyone who knows me will know that I have a soft spot for Salem, MA, as well as the annual Halloween must-watch "Hocus Pocus," so I went into Mather's debut novel with high expectations for some witchy fare. And boy, I was not disappointed. Via Samantha Mather, descendent of Cotton Mather and our fish out of water narrator, I was immediately drawn into life in contemporary Salem. Sam's fresh from NYC since her dad's been transferred to a Boston hospital (he's in a coma), and she doesn't know what to expect of her family's old home. Quickly, she discovers that Salem is far from over the witch thing -- especially when she starts going to her new high school and meets the Descendants -- yup, the descendants of the convicted witches are still ruling the high school. And they are, well, not so thrilled at the arrival of a Mather. Full of twists and turns, ghostly encounters, and spine-tingling drama, this is one witchy tale that you'll want to sink your teeth into even before Halloween.
lrhubble 23 days ago
A Must Read Contemporary Young Adult Salem, Massachusetts Sixteen-year-old Samantha Mather is new to Salem, Massachusetts which also happens to be the site of the infamous Witch Trials. Being recently transplanted from New York City, Sam isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is a descendant of Cotton Mather who was one of the men responsible for the Trials. And almost immediately Sam becomes the enemy of a group of girls that call themselves The Descendants. No need to guess who their ancestors were. Sam also finds herself face to face with a real, live (though technically dead) ghost as if dealing with everything else wasn’t enough. The ghost is handsome and also angry that Sam keeps touching his stuff. Sam soon finds out she is at the center of a centuries-old curse that is affecting everyone with ties to the Trials. Sam needs to work with The Descendants and come to terms with the ghost if she is going to have a chance at stopping the deadly cycle that has been going on since the first alleged witch that was hanged. Salem should have learned its lesson if any town should have learned from the past. Though it seems history may be about to repeat itself. This is a book that takes several different topics and ties them all together to make for a story that proves to be an amazing read. The reader will find themselves turning the pages just to see what will happen next and just where this one will end up at. The way history is brought to life through the incidents that are happing in contemporary Salem prove to be fascinating and makes for a story that is very hard to put down. It will also have readers hoping to read more from this author as she writes a book that is unforgettable.
Anonymous 25 days ago
There are so many wonderful things about this book! The writing was beautiful, the editing was fantastic, and that plot twist! After watching the book trailer, this would make an amazing movie!
Anonymous 26 days ago
This book is so good! And I love the characters Sam and Elijah!
csloat 30 days ago
The book was interesting enough to keep me reading but it didn't hold that appeal that had me diving in. I love Salem and all the stories of the Witch Trials. I think the author had great ideas but it fell flat for me.
Book_Sniffers_Anonymous 4 months ago
How to Hang a Witch was a really interesting read. We all learn about the Salem witch trials at one point or another in school but it’s rare that you read about it in a fictional sense. Not to mention that the author is actually a descendant of Cotton Mather. That right there just kicks the book up a whole other level. It wasn’t just simply something an author decided to write, she kind of integrated her family’s history into a modern YA novel. There was just something about knowing she grew up with stories about her ancestors, and that her last name singles her out to those who are familiar with it was really intriguing when it came to reading this story. Since all this weird stuff is happening since Sam’s arrival, people start to blame her. Not to mention there’s a ghost who keeps popping up, telling her that she needs to leave Salem. Suffice to say, you start to sort of realize that something isn’t right. Then people start falling ill and dying and that’s when Sam comes up with the notion that there’s a curse on her and the descendants from the witch trials. She sets off, with the help of the ghost, to try to break the curse before it kills those close to her. However, things aren’t as black and white as they seem and the author leaves you guessing up until the very end as to what’s going on and who’d behind the curse. One thing I wasn’t overly thrilled with was the weird love triangle. As described in the synopsis, Sam comes in contact with a ghost… a good looking ghost. The fact that he is a ghost but he is still able to do every day things like pick up items, touch Sam, and yet no one can actually see him other than Sam, just confused me. I mean, I could understand if he could make things move or what not but the whole hand-holding and making out threw me. Plus, I mean, the guy is a ghost! I don’t understand why he had to be a romantic angle for Sam. They could have easily just been best friends and left it at that. Elijah’s romantic ties just confused me I guess. How to Hang a Witch is a really entertaining story that will have you on the edge of your seat wondering what’s going to happen next. I honestly had no idea what was going on and was sort of holding my breath at every turn wondering if Sam was making a mistake. I liked that the author intertwined modern-day bullying with the Salem witch trials.
Anonymous 5 months ago
This book has the thrills, the storyline is perfection, the characters are unique. Everything is perfect about this book.