Witchtown by Cory Putman Oakes (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Oakes, Cory Putman Witchtown. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017[320p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-544-76557-3 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-328-69890-2 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7–10

After what was dubbed the Second Inquisition in the beginning of this century in Oakes’ alternate Earth, most witches live in havens, witch-only communities where they can practice their magic without posing a threat to the public. The most successful of these havens is Witchtown, a self-sufficient, green-built, spiritual utopia founded by a billionaire. The town and its apparent wealth are also the latest targets for Macie and her con artist mother, Aubra, who happens to be an impressively powerful witch. Macie’s got no magic, so she plays her usual part, picking up key information for the heist as the curious new girl. This time is different, though: she’s making her own friends who respect her, and she’s beginning to realize that her mom’s biggest con is making Macie feel powerless. Witchtown is playfully comedic in its sheer ordinariness: there’s a pompous but somewhat bumbling mayor and plenty of small rivalries and gossip, and most residents simply go about their day with an matter-of-fact attitude of “of course there’s a poltergeist in that old shop.” The cozy environment has understandable appeal to Macie, who’s been bounced from town to town and theft to theft. Her relationship with her mother is often painful, with Aubra constantly berating Macie, and Macie playing the role of the kicked dog, so readers will cheer when she finally takes her mother down in a scene that is both unexpected and satisfying. The dénouement is a bit sappy, but it’s a sweetness well deserved for a teen who has already tasted far too much bitterness.

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