Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials

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Overview

From Printz Honor winner and Your Own, Sylvia author Stephanie Hemphill comes this fictionalized account of the Salem Witch trials from three of the real young women living in Salem in 1692.

Ann Putnam Jr. is the queen bee. When her father suggests a spate of illnesses in the village is the result of witchcraft, she puts in motion a chain of events that will change Salem forever.

Mercy Lewis is the beautiful servant in Ann's house who inspires ...

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Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials

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Overview

From Printz Honor winner and Your Own, Sylvia author Stephanie Hemphill comes this fictionalized account of the Salem Witch trials from three of the real young women living in Salem in 1692.

Ann Putnam Jr. is the queen bee. When her father suggests a spate of illnesses in the village is the result of witchcraft, she puts in motion a chain of events that will change Salem forever.

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

Margaret Walcott, Ann's cousin, is desperately in love. She is torn between staying loyal to her friends and pursuing a life with her betrothed.

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

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hemphill (Your Own, Sylvia) plumbs the psychological underpinnings of the Salem witch trials in blank verse monologues from three of the main accusers. Two girls, eight and 12, fall violently ill, having seizures and singling out neighbors as witches. Seeing the weight the girls' accusations are given ("All that Betty and Abigail say in fit/ is listened to like it comes from the town council"), Ann, Mercy, and Margaret snatch the opportunity to join in and move to positions of influence as well, targeting those who have harmed them or their families. Neighbors are jailed and even executed based on the girls' testimony, and even as wiser heads question their credibility, the girls turn on each other, fueled by jealousy, peer pressure, blackmail, and the desire to dominate the group. Even those familiar with the historical events will savor the exploration of the underlying motivations, as Hemphill breathes life into those long dead and holds a mirror up to contemporary society. The expressive writing, masterful tension, and parallels to modern group dynamics create a powerful and relevant page-turner. Ages 12-up. (July)
Booklist (starred review)
“An excellent supplementary choice for curricular studies of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, this will also find readers outside the classroom, who will savor the accessible, unsettling, piercing lines that connect past and present with timeless conflict and truths.”
Booklist
"An excellent supplementary choice for curricular studies of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, this will also find readers outside the classroom, who will savor the accessible, unsettling, piercing lines that connect past and present with timeless conflict and truths."
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“An atmospheric tale.”
VOYA - Marla K. Unruh
Salem Village in the 1690s is a place where fortune telling is shunned in horror, yet twelve-year-old Ann Putnam and her friends play at predicting who they will marry by seeing what shapes egg whites take floating in water. When they see the shape of a coffin, Margaret Walcott, seventeen, fears they have "let loose a thing what leads to the grave." Indeed, seven girls find themselves on a path that leads nineteen people to the grave. Betty Parrish and Abigail Williams apparently suffer a convulsive fit and are thought to be "afflicted" by the devil because they can see the "invisible world." Soon the other girls join the ranks and are elevated to the status of seers in the village. Experiencing a heady, unaccustomed sense of power, they claim to see who is afflicting them and accuse other villagers of being witches. Their elders then hold trials, condemning to death those accused. This carefully researched and beautifully written poetic novel infuses new life and relevance into a dark episode in our history. Each character is limned in a distinctive voice and personality, and the girls' thoughts and words reveal the pressures that drive them. Their harsh lives contrast with the still-unspoiled loveliness of the early New England setting. Told with a piercing intensity and exquisite sensory detail, this story will haunt the reader long after the book is laid aside. Reviewer: Marla K. Unruh
Library Journal - BookSmack!
In the Puritan world, only slaves and servants had less authority than young, unmarried women, until the day a small group of them cried, "Witch!" Here Hemphill (Printz Honor winner of Your Own, Sylvia) offers her take, in verse, on the key figures and events of the Salem Witch Trials. Avoiding such modern explanations as mass hysteria and ergot poisoning, she instead examines the mean-girl motives of each accuser-one is in love, one wants to please her mother, and one just wants to fit in. When their quest for power results in the deaths of once-respected villagers, the girls begin to turn on one another, and the book becomes impossible to put down. Concluding historical notes tell what happened to the young ladies' real-life counterparts. Angelina Benedetti, "13 Going on 30", Booksmack! 10/21/10
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“An atmospheric tale.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“An atmospheric tale.”
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books

“An atmospheric tale.”

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Wicked Girls weaves a fresh interpretation of the events put forth in Arthur Miller's The Crucible and revisited more recently by Katherine Howe in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Voice, 2009). Mercy Lewis, Ann Putnam, and Mary Walcott (in this story, called "Margaret") point their fingers, lift their eyes, and cry "witch" once again. Elderly Goody Nurse appears, Mary Warren (here called "Ruth") recants her accusations, John Proctor is accused and hanged, and Giles Corey is pressed to death. The verse format is fresh and engaging, distilling the actions of the seven accusing girls into riveting narrative. In Hemphill's village of Salem, Mercy Lewis (age 17) and Ann Putnam, Jr. (age 12) vie for control of the group of girls who quickly become swept up by their celebrity. Their accusations become self-serving: the merest look or shudder from one of the "afflicted" means the offender (an inattentive lover; someone who has done a parent wrong) risks being branded a witch or wizard. Eventually, the group fractures and the girls turn on each other, leading to cruelty and death. In the author's note, Hemphill outlines the historical background, with source notes for further reading. As in Your Own, Sylvia (Knopf, 2007), she bases her book in fact, but acknowledges that "certain names and accounts have been changed, amended and altered" in the construction of her novel. Teens may need some encouragement to pick up this book, but it deserves a place in most high school collections.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061853289
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 632,181
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 700L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie Hemphill is also the award-winning author of Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist; Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book; Sisters of Glass; and Things Left Unsaid: A Novel in Poems. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2011

    Great book!

    I dont have this book on my Nook, but I have read the book and I luv it soooooo much. When I started reading this, I hardly had an idea of what the Salem witch trials were. I finished the book loving the topic and wanting to learn even more about it. This is a great book and I DEFFINITELY recommend it! A DEFINITE MUST READ! LUVED IT!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2010

    A must read!

    This is the third and best book yet from Stephanie Hemphill, whose novels in poems are among the finest YA tomes I've read in the last several years. The style is faithful to its period, yet the "wicked girls" of the title have obvious relevance to contemporary readers. This book is everything you want - thoughtful, moving, and exceptionally entertaining. A must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

    I read this book in 7th grade

    I read this ook in seventh grade and i adored it, they need to make avsecond one :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2013

    This is great so far

    I just read the sample, but can I can tell I'm going to love this book. Going to B&N to get this one. The witch trials were such a dark and horrible time in our history. I always feel so bad for the girls and women affected by such hidious ignorance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2013

    You must read this...

    This book is one of the best books i have ever read about the Salem Witch Trials. Iy captured my attention at the very beginning and stuck through until the end. The only downside might be that they talked different and sometimes it was hard to understand what thry were saying. Also it is formated in stanzas, not in paragraphs. But otherwise..totes read this!!!!!!!!

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  • Posted October 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Realistic fictionalized portrayal of Salem Witch Trials

    We all know the true story about the Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, girls were said to be afflicted by witchcraft and accused people in Salem of practicing the craft. When all was said and done, over a hundred men and women were imprisoned for being witches - nineteen of those people were executed. We know what happened, but why is another matter all in itself.

    When I first found out about this book, I k-n-e-w that I had to read it. The Salem Witch Trials was one of my favorite subjects to study in my high school history classes. The idea of this mass hysteria to terrorize a community all over the accusations of young girls always fascinated me.

    I'll be the first to admit that when I opened the book, I was surprised. I had read several reviews on Wicked Girls, but the whole idea of the book being in free verse simply alluded me until I actually saw it. I thought I was in for a challenging read - but it was just the opposite. Dare I say that it was almost spellbinding, the way this novel sucked you in.

    A bit slow at first, the pace of the book picks up speed once we're fully introduced and submersed into the minds of the three girls' perspectives that the book is written from - which is Ann Putnam Jr, Mercy Lewis, and Margaret Walcott. What surprises me the most about these three is how they each have their own reasons for falsely accusing these people of witchery. There's jealousy, peer pressure, the opportunity to gain attention, bullying and so many other themes in this book that most teenage girls can relate to today. These three were probably what I would consider the mean girls of their time - Ann Putnam Jr being the ringmaster, which is surprising considering she was only twelve years old during the Trials.

    If you like history and the Salem Witch Trials as much as I do, I'd definitely say that you will enjoy this book. Although fictionalized, I could definitely see these reasons being why the afflicted girls pointed fingers and accused so many like they did. I think the worse part of it all is grown men going on the word of little girls and not hard facts when putting peoples' lives at stake. However, that's a whole rant in itself, and has to do with the true Trials and not this book. Even if you're not a history buff, the themes in this book can be translated easily to modern-day situations for a decent read. I'd recommend this book for high school students and older.

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  • Posted July 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wicked Girls by Stephani Hemphill Review

    'm not normally a historical fiction enthusiast and not that Wicked Girls is supposed to be an accurate capturing of this period in history per say, but there was something about the cover and description of this book that had me really wanting to get my hands on it. I will admit that while I still don't consider myself to be a big fan of historical texts, I was glad I gave this book a chance.

    Stephanie Hemphill took me by surprise by writing the entire book in verse (which had me about as excited as I would be to go to the dentist) but actually turned out to be a great thing. She turned my opinion around immediately. It may have been in verse, but to me it wasn't like the daunting verse I read in school, this read more like a diary entry from each of the girls. From the perspectives of three of the young girls who were accusers during the Salem Witch trials it was almost spellbinding. I can't imagine it being as powerful if it had been written any other way.

    I've read the historical accounts from the Salem trials in many classrooms, and who didn't see Winona Ryder in The Crucible? So I knew what to expect in some way from this book, but just like before, as soon as the action started I couldn't believe these young girls could possibly have wielded so much power and such extremes as controlling the very lives and deaths of others. All sparking from the desire to be noticed, jealousy of others, and outright greed and malicious natures, these girls held and controlled the lives of an entire village. It terrifies me every time I think about it. Once the girls get things moving, everything quickly gets way out of control, but what now? The only way to set things right would be to confess all, and how can they do that? I admit I'd be scared to come clean too.

    I found my first experience with Hemphill's writing to be surprising and very dramatic. She has an amazing ability to bring out feelings and overall portrays the haunting words of the three girls like no one else I've seen or read could. I may not be a historical fiction convert but I was entertained the whole way through.

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