Wicked Girls is a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials based on the real historical characters, told from the perspective of three young women living in Salem in 1692—Mercy Lewis, Margaret Walcott, and Ann Putnam Jr.
When Ann’s father suggests that a spate of illnesses within the village is the result of witchcraft, Ann sees an opportunity and starts manifesting the symptoms of affliction. Ann looks up to Mercy, the beautiful servant in her parents' house. She shows Mercy the power that a young girl is capable of in a time when women were completely powerless. Mercy, who suffered abuse at the hands of past masters, seizes her only chance at safety. And Ann’s cousin Margaret, anxious to win the attention of a boy in her sights, follows suit. As the accusations mount against men and women in the community, the girls start to see the deadly ramifications of their actions. Should they finally tell the truth? Or is it too late to save this small New England town?
The Salem Witch Trials are one of the most interesting, and horrifying, times in history to read about. From The Crucible to Time of the Witches I’ve read a variety of novels about the Trials and the people involved. I started this back in September and had to put it aside because I started The Crucible in English class and didn’t want to mix them up. I finally started this again recently and finished it quickly. Considering it’s written in verse it’s a relatively quick read that you can finish in a few hours. I’m glad I picked this up again because it presented a different, more personal side of the happenings in 1692.
For anyone who doesn’t know this, the gist of things was that a group of young girls got together and began to have “fits” and claimed different people in their community were witches and working for the Devil. Surprisingly, people actually believed them. And soon the accused were facing horrifying trials that usually led to death by hanging. No matter how much I have read about the Trials it still shocks me how easily the people of
Wicked Girls was told in multiple perspectives which at times got confusing and I had to flip back and see who was narrating. Ann Putnam (age 12), Mercy Lewis (age 17) and Margaret Walcott (age 17) were the three narrators, although there were many more girls that were part of their group. Anne was basically the ring leader and led many of the accusations. Their reasoning was that in order to accuse and thus be rid of the bad people in their town some innocent people had to die to or else their reasoning would be questioned. Even though I got to see things from the eyes of the girls and read about their struggles and thoughts on what they were doing I was still horrified by it and could never come to like them. These girls were letting innocent townspeople hang and laying false accusations on them.
It was interesting getting to know each of the girls and to get a look at one of the most famous times in our history in novel form. I enjoy verse novels (especially those of Lisa Schroeder and Ellen Hopkins) and Stephanie can now be added to that list. She made the emotion, tension, and pain believable and real and presented the characters in a new light.
Overall, I recommend Wicked Girls to fans of historical fiction and those looking to find out more about the Salem Witch Trials. If you’ve already read a million books about them I may not recommend this because it doesn’t offer that much more than other books in this “genre”. I did like it though and it had me quivering with anger and nerves throughout. I’m looking forward to seeing what Stephanie releases next.
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
June 17, 2010/Balzer + Bray/336 Pages/Young Adult