Conversion by Katherine Howe
Publisher: Rock the Boat
Released: June 4th 2015
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.
First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.
Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .
Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?
Conversion, while definitely having an interesting premise, was unfortunately not for me and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.
I’ve never read The Crucible, though I know vaguely what happens in it, so I can’t really comment on how much Conversion followed the book/was inspired by it. However, one thing I expect from most books - and any sort of retelling/book inspired by other source material especially - is to be able to understand what’s going on without having to consult some other material or person - here, that sadly wasn’t the case. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on at all throughout the whole book. Very little was explained (even at the end when everything was supposedly wrapped up, it was still left very unclear whether [spoiler, highlight to read]Emma really was the cause of everything, or whether it was conversion disorder. Conversion itself was not explained well, and the person texting Colleen was never revealed, so what was the whole point of that?[end of spoiler]).
I generally didn’t like the characters very much either. The school pupils were all just portrayed to be ridiculously over-the-top mean (like, how many people in real life would openly laugh at someone’s hair all falling out?) and it seemed odd that people would react to things in the way that they did in the book. Colleen - the main character - was just a bit bland. She was very closed off as a friend, and her weird barely there relationship with that guy from the other school seemed so out of place and unnecessary in the story. And she was trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious sickness these girls were suffering from, but she didn’t really do anything to try and find out what it was. It was all just sitting around, coming up with vague theories. And at the end, if she really did believe [spoiler]Emma was responsible, why was she not more freaked out? And why was she not asking more questions? To Emma’s mother, especially - I couldn’t let that go and continue to be friends with someone who might be able to kill me at any moment without even knowing it. Plus she was the only one who didn’t know about Emma’s affair with that teacher guy (which, by the way, was super creepy) so it’s not like she was the best/most observant friend. I’d be nervous to ever be around Emma again if I were Colleen, after what her mother said[end of spoiler].
Overall, I just think I was too confused by this book. I’m the kind of person who likes a solid explanation for things. I don’t like weird open/left to interpretation endings that make everything unclear and offer no real answer. That sort of ending just renders the whole book pointless to me. If you do, however, like that sort of thing, and like to leave things to your own interpretation, perhaps you will enjoy this book more than I did. The idea behind it all was definitely interesting, and I just wish I liked the characters more and had a better understanding of what happened.