When I first read the synopsis of Katherine Howe’s Conversion, it caught the attention of my curiosity. I’m a fan of fantasy books. After the Harry Potter craze, I’m very open to reading about witches and witchcraft. As a Halloween lover, I even have a fascination with the Salem Witches Trials, having done my own research or watched documentaries about them. I was pretty excited to read this book at first, but I’m going to have to be honest, I stopped reading after the one hundredth page.
The story is divided into two points of view: present day, following the main character Colleen Rowley and her friends and the mysterious events occurring at their school, St. Joan’s Academy, and a young girl living during the Salem Witch Trials. In present day, the school’s queen bee falls ill. Soon after, other students experience seizures, hair loss, and violent coughing fits. As time passes, the school and its community starts to panic and the media scrambles to find answers. Past and present collide when Colleen discovers Danvers was once a Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similar bizarre epidemic three centuries ago.
Sounds pretty cool, right? A lot of readers seemed excited for this book and I wanted to like it too. Yet the set-up for both storylines and the build up to the climax was too slow for my taste. I don’t mind when authors build up a story to add tension and to the mysteriousness of the story, but only when it’s done right. When the author withholds information from the audience for too long, it gets boring, and in some cases, it’s a little insulting to the reader. It makes the reader feel stupid and left in the dark, unable to put the clues together or feel privy to the secret. Some books need to give readers a little something more to keep us interested and active participants in the story.
As a reader and book blogger, I try to be open to reading different types of books, but I think this novel reminded me that I rarely enjoy stories that revolve around academies or private schools. Essentially, if the word “queen bee” is ever written in a novel, I try to avoid it. Reading about characters gossiping, worrying about their grades, and if a boy might like them is a little boring if that’s all there is. I rather it be a small part of the story. I enjoy stories with a steady pace, with smart and funny writing, memorable moments, and relatable characters, or at least believable ones.
With one hundred pages in, I feel like I at least tried to read the book. Being an experienced reader, I’ve learned that it’s best not to waste my time on books I don’t enjoy reading. As a book blogger, I give a book a chance, reading three chapters or one hundred pages. I believe you shouldn’t force yourself to read anything you don’t like because you lose that drive to want to read. Keep in mind, other people did enjoyed Howe’s Conversion. I’ve heard a movie based on the novel is being created too, which is wonderful for the author and fans of the book. But this time around, this novel wasn’t for me.
*Disclosure: An advance reading copy was provided from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions within this review are solely my own, not that of the publisher or the author.