Adriana Mather, whose ancestor, Cotton Mather, was an integral part of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, returns to that cursed town in her new novel, How to Hang a Witch. This YA novel follows a fictional Mather descendant, Samantha Mather, who moves to Salem from New York City and immediately becomes the target of a group called The Descendants, who — you guessed it — are related to the unlucky women of four centuries ago. Add in a handsome (but definitely dead) ghost and an ancient curse, and we’re in for a wicked ride.
How to Hang a Witch hits shelves July 26, but in advance of its release, EW is excited to reveal the book’s eerie trailer, above, and an exclusive excerpt, below:
Excerpt from How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
About My Last Name
I double-check the paper in my hand that says “Homeroom—Room #11.” I pull the classroom door open. Being the new girl is like having a target on your forehead. People either mess with you or make bets on who will hook up with you first.
I scan the room and bite my lip. Most seats are taken, except for a couple in the first row next to two girls wearing all black. Not in the way I do with ripped jeans, but more gothic chic. Lace blouses, black blazers, and skinny jeans. The rest of the room is pretty predictably preppy, what you would expect from a town bordering Boston—a place my dad calls the khaki capital.
I slip into the seat next to the blond girl in all black.
“That seat’s taken,” she says.
“Yes, it is. By me.” I freeze. I’m so used to having to defend myself that I just picked a fight without meaning to. She and the olive-skinned brunette with curly hair on the other side of her turn toward me.
“Move,” the blonde says. Her black eye makeup frames her icy glare.
“It’s fine, Alice,” says a girl I didn’t see approach. Her dark auburn hair is perfectly tucked into a high bun, and she wears a black lace dress that flairs at the waist. “I’ll sit here.” She gracefully lowers herself into the desk on my right. The bell rings.
“Hello, everyone. I’m Mrs. Hoxley, as many of you know. And, as you also know, I do not accept tardiness. Welcome to your first day of tenth grade,” says the stout woman with glasses and a skirt suit from the eighties. Well, she’s a charmer.
I pull my jacket off as Mrs. Hoxley does roll call. She goes right past the M’s without mentioning me.
“Is there anyone I missed?” Mrs. Hoxley scans our faces.
I raise my hand.
“My name’s Sam. I just moved here from New York.” I swallow hard. I hate talking in class.
“Speak up. I need your full name.” Her pencil taps her clipboard.
“Samantha Mather,” I say a bit louder. All eyes are on me, and people whisper.
“Mather, is it? I did receive a notice about you. Haven’t had a Mather in this school for more than twenty years.”
She remembers the last Mather at this school. . . . Who? My dad?
Alice and the girl next to her—Mary, I think—exchange a glance. “When that crazy old lady died, I thought they were gone,” Alice whispers to Mary but keeps her cold gaze on me.
I turn toward her. Don’t react. Breathe.
“But I guess we’re just not that lucky,” Alice continues.
The challenge in her expression shatters my thin hold over my temper. “Are you talking about my dead grandmother? Real classy.”
“I do not appreciate students speaking out of turn,” says Mrs. Hoxley.
How did I just wind up being the one in trouble?
“Alice, that goes for you, too,” says Mrs. Hoxley. “I expect you to keep your family history out of the classroom.”
“Got it,” Alice says.
Family history? This can’t seriously be about my last name.
For the rest of homeroom, Alice and Mary pass notes and throw sideways looks at me. I don’t see this playing out well. Mrs. Hoxley reviews the rules and hands out our schedules. Mine is delivered by someone from the principal’s office. I have AP History first period, followed by AP Chem.
When the bell rings, I grab my jacket and black shoulder bag.
In the hallway, I wander, trying to figure out which way the room numbers go. I pass a glass trophy case that has go witches! written on it. Of course their mascot is a witch.
Still staring at the case, I walk smack into someone. A guy with wavy dark hair and high cheekbones stares down at me. Gray eyes take note of my reddening face. He’s so attractive that I forget my words and my mouth hangs open. Is there a desk somewhere I can hide under before I make any more blunders? He walks away before I can tell him I’m sorry.
“Sam,” Jaxon says, a few feet in front of me. “You lost?”
Yes, and wishing I could press reset on this day. “Just looking for AP History.”
“It’s right here.” He points to the door on his left. “You a sophomore or a junior?”
“Sophomore. You’re a junior, though.”
“It’s that obvious, huh?”
“You’ve got that upperclassman cock—” Oh holy hell. I almost called him cocky. My hands go clammy. Only worse, I just said he has an upperclassman cock. I might die. This might be the end for me.
Jaxon bursts out laughing. “Why, thanks. I didn’t think you noticed.”
“Oh, no. I didn’t mean that. I meant upperclassman cockiness.” Great, now I’ve said both the things I didn’t mean to say.
My only escape is into the classroom, which I take, but he keeps pace with me. I take a seat in the back, trying to will myself to blink out of existence.
Jaxon takes the seat next to me, still grinning. “That might be the best thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
I stare at my desk. This would be funny if it wasn’t so horrifying. Thankfully, he’s being nice about it. “I wish I could say that was the only stupid thing I’ve done so far.”
“Not having a good first day at Salem High?”
I shake my head. “Have you noticed a group of girls in my grade that wear all black—rich goth types?”
I venture a look at Jaxon. “What?”
“Like that?” He nods toward a guy and a girl entering the room. The guy wears an expensive–looking black button-down shirt, black pants, and black loafers. And she has on a floor-length black dress with a tailored black blazer. Her hair is a perfect bob.
“Yeah, exactly like that.”
“There are five of them in our school. He’s the only dude. They’re descended from the original witches. Everyone kinda love-hates them. People think they can curse you if they want to. I think it’s total bull.”
“You’re kidding, right?” But I can tell from his expression that he’s not.
“Jaxon.” A girl waves from across the room. She’s pretty, in that equestrienne sort of way.
He smiles at her. “Hey.”
“Sit with us,” she says, gesturing to her equally preppy girlfriend.
“Nah, I’m good. I’m waiting for Dillon.” She looks from him to me with dagger eyes.
Great. One more person who doesn’t like me. I’m on a roll today.