Season of the Witch, by Mariah Fredericks

Mariah Fredericks's Season of the Witch hopes for the literary equivalent of having one's cake and eating it too: the author tries to lure in readers with fantasy/horror stuff, but she also wants her story to be taken seriously as a real-world exploration of grief, revenge, and teenage power dynamics. I wish she had committed to one approach or the other, although the resulting mash-up is still remarkably entertaining.

Toni knows her junior year is going to be hell. Over the summer, she had a one-night fling with Oliver, who was “kind of taking a break” from his relationship with his girlfriend Chloe. Chloe and Oliver have since reconciled, but Chloe is still furious—and her anger is aimed at Toni, not Oliver. She and her friends spread rumors about Toni, send threatening texts, and physically assault her. Terrified and angry, Toni starts hanging out with her troubled classmate Cassandra, who introduces her to witchcraft. Toni's not convinced their spells will work, but when Chloe dies in a strange accident, she can't help but wonder...

Fredericks has created an unusually complex teen narrator—Toni is alternately brave and cowardly, sympathetic and selfish. The supporting cast is uniformly interesting, and the witchcraft and bullying threads are neatly tied together. I suspect teen readers will wholeheartedly love this story, but I kept wistfully thinking of what might have been. Fredericks could have either A) written a straightforward teen melodrama without any of the implausible coincidences Toni attributes to magic, or B) gone full bore on the teen-witches-gone-wild stuff, creating a smarter, less cheesy update of The Craft. I don't want to complain too much about the novel we got—because it really was pretty solid—but, man, that witch story could have been great.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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