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Conversion
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Conversion
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane comes a chilling mystery—Prep meets The Crucible.

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?

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane comes a chilling mystery—Prep meets The Crucible.

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?

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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    5.1
  • Lexile:
    770
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    3 - 4

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Excerpts-
  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

    Copyright © 2014 Katherine Howe


    P R E L U D E






    SALEM VILLAGE, MASSACHUSETTS

    MAY 30, 1706




    How long must I wait?

    His tongue creeps out the corner of his mouth while
    he writes, the tip of it black with ink, the blacking in his gums staining his teeth. He looks like he's got a mouthful of tar. I've been waiting for some time, but Reverend Green's still writing. His quill runs across the paper, scratching like mouse paws. Scratch scratch, dip, scratch, lick, scratch.

    My feet ache, and shifting my weight just makes the one hurt worse than the other. I'm leaning in the door frame, and in my mind my mother prods me in my back to make me straight. It's so sharp, the prodding, I could almost swear she was really there.

    "Ann?" he says.

    I'd gotten so used to the waiting that I don't hear him at first.

    "Ann!" He's tossed his quill down.

    "Yes," I whisper.

    He turns a chill eye on me, an arm over the back of his chair. His elbow's worn the turkey-work well away, 'til it's so threadbare, it shines. Reverend Green's the kind of man who's always being interrupted. A harassed look about him, as if he can never get time to concentrate on one thing altogether. Spends his whole life turning around in his chair.

    I take a step back, thinking better of my errand. He gives me a long look. He's none too eager to hear what I've got to say either.

    "Well, you'd best come in," he says at length, returning to his paper.

    He hunches over his desk, free hand clutching bunches of his hair
    like he's anxious to finish whatever he's writing. Scratch scratch scratch.

    I should've gone when I had the chance; he'd never've known I was here. I glance over my shoulder, through the parsonage hall. Goody Green, his wife, has got the fire going all right, but the door's open to the yard, as it's a warm day. The patch of sunlight on the floor is so bright, I have to squint. A long stretch of shadow, and a cat wraps around the doorjamb and flattens himself out in the sunshine with a yawn. He rolls on his back, batting at ghosts.

    Goody Green's at the table wringing out cheesecloth. She looks harried, and no wonder, with the baby hiccoughing so. She was bouncing him up and down the hall when I arrived, beating him over her shoulder. I said she should hold him upside down and give him a little shake, but she glared and said, "If you'll just wait for Reverend Green over there."

    I not being a mother, I suppose she'd ignore my advice, though it's common knowledge how many Putnams I raised myself. Now I see she's given up. The baby's stashed in a long wooden cradle near enough that she can rock it with a foot, but she's just letting him cough, all red in the face like a baked apple. And to be sure she can't call on anyone for so much as a poultice.

    No one can, in the village, anymore.

    "Go on, then," she says to me, giving the cloth a final twist. She's got some arms, has Goody Reverend Green. "Don't you keep him waiting."

    If she weren't there, I could sneak away. I feel my heart pressing against my ribs, and the top of my head opening, as if my soul were being ripped from my body by the hair.

    A girl in a dirty coif wanders in from the yard, finger in her mouth, her apron splotched with mud. She looks over at me all shy, because she doesn't know me, or perhaps because she's been warned to keep away. She's like a sweet piglet walking on two legs, with those pink cheeks all in mud like that, and I smile at her. She squeaks in terror and runs to hide behind her...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 28, 2014
    As she did in her adult novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Howe draws thrilling connections between the Salem witch trials and the present day in her YA debut. Colleen Rowley and her friends attend St. Joan’s Academy, a private Catholic high school in Boston that caters to girls with Harvard-size aspirations. After Colleen’s classmate Clara has a strange seizure during class, Clara develops shocking, Tourette’s-like verbal and facial tics. The condition soon spreads through the school until there are dozens of girls with inexplicable and divergent symptoms—Colleen’s friend Anjali has started coughing up pins. The school nurse and local medical professionals scroll futilely through diagnoses, and the media descends on St. Joan’s, making life a circus for the girls and their families. Howe gives Colleen a strong and sure voice, while alternating between the present-day action in 2012 and “Interludes” set in Salem Village in 1706. A chilling guessing game of a novel that will leave readers thinking about the power (and powerlessness) of young women in the past and present alike. Ages 12–up. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor.

  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2014
    Fingers are pointed and chaos ensues when a group of high-achieving high school seniors begin exhibiting bizarre behaviors in an all-girls private school located in Danvers, Massachusetts-formerly known as Salem Village.After queen bee Clara Rutherford falls into a seizure at St. Joan's, and her best friends are similarly afflicted, fellow student Colleen Rowley receives anonymous texts that urge her to study Arthur Miller's The Crucible for clues. More girls fall victim to the seizures, and reporters and environmental crusaders descend on Danvers. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health finally declares that the girls are suffering from "conversion disorder," an illness in which the body "converts" stress into physical symptoms. But after seeing how one of her friends seemed to disperse her sadness over a doomed love affair into other people, Colleen wonders if supernatural powers may be at play. In parallel chapters, Ann Putnam, a primary figure in the actual Salem witch trials, confesses to her local minister that she and the other accusers were lying when they named people as witches. The richly drawn characters and period language of the familiar Salem story are far more compelling than the stereotypically rendered Danvers teens. After a deliberate buildup of escalating tension and suspense in the contemporary narrative, Howe hastily wraps up the story based on actual events that took place in La Roy, New York, in 2012 with a series of unsatisfactory solutions that are dropped on the reader with little or no ceremony.Slow boil, flat finish. (author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    June 1, 2014

    Gr 9 Up-Howe skillfully blends a modern medical mystery based on real events with the historical Salem Witch panic to create an engaging story. The prelude begins with Ann Putnam arriving at her minister's house in Salem, Massachusetts in 1706, finally ready to confess her part in the Panic more than 12 years before. Ann's tale continues in between glimpses into the life of Colleen Rowley, a senior at the exclusive St. Joan's High School of Danvers, Massachusetts in 2012. The pressure in the final semester is intense for Colleen and her classmates, who are all competing for places in top colleges. Her usually uneventful morning is disturbed, first by an apparent seizure of the very popular Clara Rutherford, and then by the unexplained replacement of the young AP History teacher. As the semester continues, more girls fall victim to a panoply of symptoms. Meanwhile, Colleen begins work on a research paper for the history substitute on an actual person absent from Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Amid a growing media circus, diagnoses are offered and then dismissed. The protagonist's research persuades her that the cause of the Salem Witch trials was far from supernatural and that the same "force" might be at work at St. Joan's. The author convincingly writes in the voice of current and historical teens, and major characters undergo significant growth in this intense tale. Howe's use of red herrings and the "ripped from the headlines" narrative will keep readers guessing until the final reveal.-Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    May 1, 2014
    Grades 8-11 St. Joan's Academy in Danvers, Massachusetts, a well-to-do private girl's school for the best and brightest, is usually only home to hysteria of the college-admissions kind. But when Clara starts convulsing in class, a media frenzy fixates on the St. Joan's mystery disease. Is it a reaction to the HPV vaccine? Or are students under so much pressure they're beginning to crack? As more and more girls fall ill, Coleen, gunning for valedictorian, researches the Salem witch trials and begins to notice eerie echoes among her peers. Howe, author of the New York Times best-selling The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (2009), returns to similar territory here in her young-adult debut. In propulsive scenes, the story alternates between Coleen in 2012, who narrates the growing atmosphere of intense competition and pressure that is thankfully tempered by some heartening and realistic friendships, and Ann Putnam in 1706, who recounts her complicity during the Salem Panic and comes clean about the girls' accusations of witchcraft. A simmering blend of relatable high-school drama with a persistent pinprick of unearthliness in the background. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a major motion picture in development, this novel is getting a media campaign to match.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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