Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shivery Wicked Girls A Perfect Halloween Read (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

None in the Village dare step
on the shadows we forge,
lest their name
be next proclaimed.
For as evening approaches
and heat subsides
our elders shrivel and shrink,
and we girls
grow spine tall (224).
The more I read, the more I'm convinced - nothing is quite as chilling as the truth. Ghosts, zombies, vampires, and demons have their place, sure, but at the end of the day, we know they're not real (okay, maybe not at the end of the day, when monsters easily slip into our dreams; in the light of the morning, then, we know they're not real). Not so with the devils we see on the 5 o'clock news or learn about in the paper. Those fiends are real. And that's terrifying.
History gives us this frightening tale: Between February 1692 and May 1693, 19 citizens of Massachusetts were executed for practicing witchcraft. Hundreds of others were accused, tried, and imprisoned for the same crime. The kicker? All of those acts were performed based on the word of a small group of teenage girls. Considered "seers" by the pious folk of Salem Village, the girls regularly "saw" their neighbors engaging in questionable acts. Although doctors could find nothing physically wrong with the girls, they were afflicted by constant fits, in which they would scream, throw things, contort their bodies into impossible positions, and proclaim that they were being tortured by witches. Boiling over with righteous indignation, the townspeople took it upon themselves to rid their community of anyone the "seers" accused. Concrete evidence hardly mattered when the purest vessels in the land were receiving holy visions. The leaders of Salem Village accepted the girls' accusations as the God's honest truth, a mistake that led to some of the cruelest deaths in American history.
What motivated the girls (Religious fanaticism? PTSD from witnessing violent Indian attacks? Eating infected rye bread? Hunger for power?) is unknown, but Stephanie Hemphill runs with the idea that the "seers" would do and say anything to keep the town's attention focused on them. In Wicked Girls, she introduces the 7 girls who, collectively, caused the deaths of 20 people, and were directly responsible for tarnishing the reputations of scores of others. Although Hemphill uses her literary license to enlarge the characters, the girls she describes are those identified in the history books: there's orphan Mercy Lewis (17), who works as a maid for the Putnam Family; Ann Putnam Jr. (12), a young lady of stature in town; Margaret Walcott (17), Ann's step-cousin; Abigail Williams (12), niece of Reverend Samuel Parris; Betty Parris (8), the Reverend's daughter; Elizabeth Hubbard (17), a niece of the town doctor; and Susannah Sheldon (18), a girl from Salem town who serves a local family. Together, they form a tight clique. As their little fits gain notice from the people around them, they heighten the drama by writhing on the floor with greater agitation, pinching themselves, crying out during church services, and swooning. So poison are their accusations that no one dares cross the girls.
The girls believe in their own visions to varying degrees. Mercy knows she hasn't truly seen a thing, but she'll do whatever it takes to punish the man she holds responsible for her parents' deaths. Margaret's stained by her own sins, yet punishes others with fervor. Ann's more concerned about her own power within the group than about anyone they might hurt with their accusations. Insisting on managing her own outbursts, Abigail struggles to keep her position in the clique. Susannah's too slow to truly understand, Betty too young. Elizabeth is tortured by what she does, but can't stand up to Ann, let alone those who abuse her. All crave the attention and power they get from their stunts. The high is too exhilirating to give up.
As the girls' power builds, crests and eventually diminishes, we witness their every thought and action. Written in free verse, the novel grows more chilling with every sentence. What results is a taut, terrifying story of innocence tainted by greed and power lust. More frightening than any Stephen King novel, Wicked Girls is a perfectly shivery Halloween read. I've still got goosebumps.
(Readalikes: Although I've never read it, The Crucible by Arthur Miller tells the same story. It also reminded me of Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult.)
Grade: B
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for violence, some sexual content, reference to physical abuse of children
To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Wicked Girls from the generous folks at Harper Collins. Thank you!
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Believe it or not, this is the 700th post I've published here at BBB. I know, right? Wow. In celebration, I'm giving away a brand new, hardcover copy of Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill. Thanks to Harper Collins for providing me with it. Since I will be mailing it myself, I'm opening the giveaway to all of my readers, wherever in the world you may reside. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me how you feel about Halloween. Love it? Hate it? How do you celebrate? What books are you reading to get you into that shivery, quivery Halloween state of mind? I will choose a winner (using random.org) on October 15. Please remember to leave a working email address if you do not have a public blog. Thanks and good luck!

24 comments:

  1. I love Halloween, especially the decorations!
    bkhabel at gmail dot com

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  2. Halloween (like Easter) is one of those holidays that was lots more fun when my children/grandchildren were small. I enjoy the children who come trick-or-treating. Having read some other Salem witchcraft novels recently, I'm very anxious to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway.
    lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Stunning review. I received an ARC of this one as well, and I'm lazy and haven't peaked inside. I didn't know until I read another review recently that it's written in verse! I'm sort of intrigued by that idea, and I'm all the more excited to read it now.

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  4. I love Halloween... the decorations, the candy, etc. I'm not big into dressing up, but I love seeing everyone else dressed up. Have you read The Heretic's Daughter? It's a historical fiction novel written by a great great grandaughter of a woman who was put on trial for witchcraft in the salem witch trials. Very interesting! This will be interesting coming from the other side of the story!
    az6pack at gmail dot com

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  5. I love Halloween season. The weather is near perfect, as long as it doesnt rain. And its so much fun to see kids dressed up in costumes. I try to read as many spooky books as I can during October as well.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

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  6. I'd love to win this book. I just love reading about the Salem witch trials.

    As to Hallowe'en, I'm not into it. Always take the kids out trick or treating but we don't decorate and by the time we get home there are no more kids on the streets, except the teenagers. So we turn the lights off and watch TV.

    As to books, I'm reading a few here and there for the Carl's RIP Challenge.

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  7. I love Halloween! It is my favorite holiday! I love to decorate my home and my workplace! I have 10 x-large rubbermaid tubs filled with decorations! Skeletons and bats! My main floor bathroom becomes the jack-o-lantern room! I am a witch every year all day on Halloween itself! I love it! I will quit going on and on! Thanks for hosting!
    bevsharp@desch.org

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  8. Halloween is fun for us because we like to see what costume design my husband comes up with for the kids. He handmakes their costumes each year and every year outdoes the year before. One year he dressed up like Frankenstein and it was the most incredible costume.

    I hope I win this giveaway. I love reading about the Salem Witch trials.

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  9. I love Halloween. Every year my husband and I decorate like crazy. I carve a few pumpkins, make a halloween themed dinner and we even dress up when we hand out candy to the children in the neighborhood. I already have a few scary/gothic books lined up to read but this one wounds wonderful. It fits right in for the season. Thanks for the giveaway.
    jricciut@hotmail.com

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  10. Enter me please. I love Halloween and enjoy seeing my kids get dressed up for their school parades and trick-or-treat around the neighborhood. Right now I'm reading a gothic tale called The Distant Hours (written by Kate Morton - it will be available in Nov) and I think it is the perfect creepy read for this time of year!

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  11. I'll be the first to admit I'm not a huge Halloween fan. I don't like scary movies or terrifying books, though I do like a little creepiness or shivery stuff. Dressing up isn't fun when you are old and have no kids to dress up either :) But, I do love the candy and especially caramel apples.
    librariansbook(at)gmail

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  12. Halloween is colors, candy, costumes, cookies, and cooler weather. What's not to like about all that?!?!

    Terrific review.

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  13. I love Halloween! It's the kickoff to the Holiday Season. :)
    Love decorating for Fall & Halloween.
    I haven't read any spooky books lately (Does Breaking Dawn count?) so maybe this will be my first?

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  14. I LOVE Halloween. The spookiness, the decorations, the costumes...it's one of my favorite holidays.

    a(dot)long(at)tcu(dot)edu

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  15. I have to say that I never celebrate Halloween, apart of we never have one here.But I love all the creepy stories and decorations and kids wearing costumes whenever I watch it on movies. And of course when they say trick or treat!LOL

    Congratulations on your 700th post and hope for many more to come!Keep it up!

    darlyn225 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh my gosh I love Halloween!! It's my favorite holiday! I love the decorations, the fall weather, the spooky stories, all of it! I'm hoping to read some spooky stories, last october I read Frankenstein for the first time. Thanks for the contest!

    inthehammockblog at gmail dot com

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  17. I love it! I'm going all out on my blog and at home to celebrate!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    missie at theunreadreader.com

    ReplyDelete
  18. I love Halloween! I love the weather, the decorations, the candy of course, and just the whole Fall season. Thanks for the contest!

    lvtink21@wi.rr.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love Halloween! I only wish it was a more popular holiday in my country. However there's a couple of parties I might go to. I love getting dressed up :)
    I haven't found a halloween read yet.

    entrelibros_blog at hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. While Halloween isn't my favorite holiday (that is totally Christmas), I do love it. Sadly, I don't have as much time as I'd like to celebrate it, but I still make my boyfriend carve pumpkins with me and make pumpkin soup (which we are still trying to find the perfect recipe for) and watch Halloween themed movies.
    nice giveaway.
    jlynettes at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  21. i love halloween - have loved it since i was a kid - though i admit, it's more fun with children involved. so nowadays we just watch lots of horror movies, go to the local haunted houses, and give out candy to the trick-or-treaters...

    for a great halloween read, i recommend anything by edgar allen poe and the halloween tree by ray bradbury!

    k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

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  22. I LOVE IT!

    I celebrate with pumpkins, candy corn, ouiji boards and candlelight XD

    I'm reading The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, I read it every Halloween :)

    littlebearries@yahoo.com

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  23. I really love the atmosphere of Halloween but I don't really plan on doing anything other than hanging out at home watching scary movies :)
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  24. I live for Halloween because I love autumn, I love the crips, cool weather, and (of course) watching the leaves fall. It's simply breathtaking. Halloween is when you get to be a kid again. Anyone can celebrate. In a way Halloween is liberating, but most of all it's just fun. Currently I'm reading "Wicked" so it's definetely getting me into the Halloween mood by being whimsical, fun,with just a hint of spooky.

    sabrinabertsch'at'hotomail'dot'com

    ReplyDelete

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