Trend Alert: Witches

I don’t know about you, but I am all here for the twenty-first century reclamation of the witch as a feminist icon. In a 2017 opinion piece for the New York Times, writer Lindy West (Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, 2016) responded to the cries of Hollywood creeps and abusers who were calling the #MeToo movement a witch hunt by saying: “I will let you guys have this one. Sure, if you insist, it’s a witch hunt. I’m a witch, and I’m hunting you.” This November, Hachette will release West’s next work of nonfiction, titled The Witches Are Coming.

Today, witches are a fun trope that can be played in all manner of ways: silly, sexy, dark, religious. But in much of Western history, the only explanation for these “unnatural” women who were unapologetically sexual, political, or otherwise dangerously “unfeminine,” was that they were supernatural and demonic. After centuries of “witch” being a word used to delegitimize women’s power—and in many cases, actually kill them—we’re taking it back.

Because the past three years have seen witches returning across all forms of media in new ways (including Practical Magic, Hocus Pocus *and* Sabrina the Teenage Witch spin-offs!), I’ll be taking a look at post-2016 witches in fiction and nonfiction below. As usual, all titles are linked to their Booklist reviews when available.

YA Fiction

The Babysitters Coven, by Kate Williams
This debut winks at ’90s cult horror films, though Esme fares significantly better than the average babysitter—she’s a bit of a Buffy, albeit one you’d trust with kids. A high-energy series starter that’s plenty of fun.

The Lost Coast, by Amy Rose Capetta
In Capetta’s dreamy, enigmatic tale, a restless teen finds friendship, love, and self-acceptance among a coven of queer witches. This is a slow-burning, mystical, and romantic character study about the life-affirming magic of finding a place to belong after being lost for so long.

The Near Witch, by Victoria Schwab
Schwab’s debut, a story of forbidden love, ancient magic, and unearthed secrets, surpasses the stereotypical teen witch novel through rich language and an entrancing story. With its bleak, Brontë-like setting and its relatable and realistic young couple, this will have immediate appeal.

Only the Stars Know Her Name: Salem’s Lost Story of Tituba’s Daughter, by Amanda Marrone
While the characters are real and the story fictional, Marrone has created an unusual twist on Salem’s history with a powerful story of the importance of family and seeking justice.

Other Words for Smoke, by Sarah Maria Griffin
Family problems and adolescent trials tether the narrative to reality while heightening the otherworldly threats surrounding its characters. Griffin’s hallucinatory novel creeps under the skin, unnerving readers while urging them onward.

Teeth in the Mist, by Dawn Kurtagich
A mysterious, foreboding house in Wales connects two teenage girls across time. Roan’s story, which draws from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, reads like a classic gothic horror story, while Zoey’s is all found footage, an amalgamation of Blair Witch Project–esque film transcripts, text messages, and diary entries. 

The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco
The Graces, by Laure Eve
Grimoire Noir, by Vera Greentea and illustrated by Yana Bogatch
How to Hang a Witch, by Adriana Mather
Labyrinth Lost, by Zoraida Córdova
Missing, Presumed Dead, by Emma Berquist
The Suffering Tree, by Elle Cosimano
These Witches Don’t Burn, by Isabel Sterling
Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft, edited by Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe
Undead Girl Gang, by Lily Anderson
The Waking Forest, by Alyssa Wees
When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore
The Wicked Deepby Shea Ernshaw
Wicked like a Wildfire, by Lana Popović
The Wise and the Wicked, by Rebecca Podos

Adult Fiction

The Daughters of Temperance Hobb, by Katherine Howe
In historian Howe’s follow-up to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (2009), Connie Goodwin delves back into the long lineage of mystical women in her family, many of whom were suspected of witchcraft, reaching back to seventeenth-century Salem.

The Familiars, by Stacey Halls
Rich with intrigue and filled with details of the constraints faced by seventeenth-century women, both well born and common, The Familiars offers a look into the real-life world of the notorious Pendle witch trials that ended with 11 executions.

The Furies, by Katie Lowe

Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery, edited by Rachel Autumn Deering and Christopher Golden

The Invited, by Jennifer McMahon
When Helen digs into [her town] Hartsboro’s history, she finds a dark story. In 1924, local “witch” Hattie Breckenridge was lynched in the Wetheralls’ bog. As the dream house takes shape, Hattie’s ghost appears, urging Helen to look into the fate of Hattie’s daughter, Jane. Lured into the mystery, Helen discovers violent deaths in each generation of Hattie’s female descendants. McMahon’s siren-like ghosts use Helen to build their own home to haunt, and the resulting blend of ghost story and modern mystery is flawlessly compelling and evocative. A masterful twist on the haunted-house story.

The Witch’s Kind, by Louisa Morgan
The tiny touches of magic realism, fantasy, and science fiction are intriguing elements, but the strength of Morgan’s powerful story is her depiction of this time and place and the everyday struggles of determined women. A great choice for readers who enjoy novels by Alice Hoffman and Barbara Kingsolver.

The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden
The King of Bones and Ashes, by J. D. Horn
The Return of the Witch, by Paula Brackston
The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman
A Secret History of Witches, by Louisa Morgan
She Would Be King, by Wayétu Moore
Spells of Blood and Kin, by Claire Humphrey
The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox
The Witches of New York, by Ami McKay
Witchmark, by C. L. Polk
Witchy Eye, by D. J. Butler

Adult Nonfiction

Beyond using witchery to explore female power and suffering, some recent nonfiction titles are showcasing the healing and activist properties of witchcraft. Find witch-focused historical accounts and handbooks, all published/publishing in 2019, below.

Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power, by Pam Grossman
Feminists will appreciate Grossman’s in-depth, woman-focused history and analysis. She observes ways women’s history and contemporary reality are intertwined with references to witchcraft, the occult, myth, and a multitude of female archetypes. Waking the Witch is a must-add for public and academic collections.

Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven, by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
Hexing the Patriarchy: 26 Potions, Spells, and Magical Elixirs to Embolden the Resistance, by Ariel Gore
Initiated: Memoir of a Witch,by Amanda Yates Garcia
The Practical Witch’s Spell Book; for Love, Happiness, and Success, by Cerridwen Greenleaf and illustrated by Mara Penny
Revolutionary Witchcraft: A Guide to Magical Activism, by Sarah Lyons
Wellness Witch: Healing Potions, Soothing Spells, and Empowering Rituals for Magical Self-Care, by Nikki Van De Car and illustrated by Anisa Makhoul

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About the Author:

A former Booklist intern and current Booklist reviewer, Ellie is a reader and writer based in Chicago. She holds a BA in writing from Wheaton College (IL) and is the assistant to the president at Browne & Miller Literary Associates.

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