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 . . .
Review: Conversion is a brilliant cross between historical fiction and paranormal. Howe blended together intense research and her powerful writing style to capture readers and draw them into the mystery of St. Joan’s Academy. I liked Colleen; she wanted there to be something supernatural going on because she couldn’t fathom that it was due to academic pressure. Our schools are rigorous and have the same overwhelming expectations as Colleen’s school, so I understood that for the mystery illness to be from school stress it would mean admitting that Colleen and the other girls couldn’t handle the course load, which would be devastating. The ending could be taken as unsatisfying or an invitation for the reader to construct their own theory. I prefer that latter because I think the characters sitting down and listing out the whole truth wouldn’t have fit with the story. If you’re fan of historical fiction or mysteries, be sure to pick up Conversion.