Celia Rees, Author, Rees, Author . Candlewick $15.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7636-1421-8

Though much of Rees's debut novel moves at a lackadaisical pace, its opening scenes are riveting: Mary, 14, watches as her grandmother—the only family she has ever known—is tortured, tried and finally hung as a witch. Afterward, a mysterious protector sends Mary away from England with a group of Puritans bound for a remote Massachusetts settlement—an odd haven indeed for a girl reputed to be a witch. The book unfolds through Mary's diary entries. She tries to be "the perfect little Puritan maid" during the voyage and, upon reaching America, travels with her fellow passengers to a new settlement. But there Mary is drawn to the forest and a Native American boy, Jaybird (grandson of an elder who is, of course, a wise healer), raising the suspicions of her neighbors. Crisis looms when Mary becomes the scapegoat of a witch trial centering on the hysterical behavior of a gaggle of privileged Puritan girls (shades of The Crucible). Though the story is filled with authentic-seeming historic detail, Mary behaves more like a 21st-century teenager with a penchant for things New Age than a product of her own era: she is, for example, one of the only settlers enlightened enough to appreciate the local Native Americans ("The Indians go lightly in the world, that is all"). An afterword provides links to a Web site, as well as a request for "information regarding any of the individuals and families mentioned." A sequel is forthcoming. Hampered by wandering story lines and some stereotyped supporting cast members, this seductive material never quite comes together. Nevertheless, it will likely attract teen horror fans who flocked to The Blair Witch Project (a "foreword" hints at similar trappings, claiming that the story has been pieced together from a collection of papers found sewn into a colonial-era quilt). Ages 12-up. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Genre: Children's
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-0-7393-6760-5
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-8072-0627-0
Hardcover - 303 pages - 978-0-7862-3896-5
Paperback - 261 pages - 978-0-7636-4228-0
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-6759-9
Prebound-Glued - 261 pages - 978-0-606-08466-6
Open Ebook - 978-1-4088-1037-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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