Monday, April 26, 2010

WICKED GIRLS by Stephanie Hemphill

If you are looking for a story about some of the original "mean girls", look no further.  WICKED GIRLS by Stephanie Hemphill is about a group of young girls in Salem, Massachusetts, who began identifying their own village neighbors as witches.  They accused many and the result was the hanging deaths of countless innocent victims.

Led by Mercy Lewis, Margaret Walcott, and Ann Putnam Jr., this group of girls, aged 8-18, devised a game to accuse various village members of witchcraft.  The girls became known as the Seers and were said to be afflicted and given to fits and fainting whenever a witch was present.  The girls all reported pinches causing bruises and welts, saying those they accused had used the Devil's power to inflict the injuries.

Amazingly, the men of the village church and the village council believed the girls and set about holding hearings and trials for the accused.  Upon the testimony of the girls, innocent people were found guilty, imprisoned, and later put to death.

According to Hemphill's author's note, research didn't really reveal the reason behind the girls' plan so in this fictionalize account, she speculates as to the motivations for their behavior.  Much like modern day, the story illustrates the power of the bully and the mindless followers that become part of such groups.

Readers interested in this era of our history will find the book a unique presentation of the topic.  Even if history is not a reader's area of interest, the story is still a fascinating one.   Written in verse that alternates from one girl to the next, WICKED GIRLS presents the events of a year in a small village and the amazing craziness that will forever be known as the Salem Witch Trials.

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