The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Came Out: August 2, 2011

Pages: 288

Publisher: Hyperion Books CH

Format: ARC

Source: Inkwood

Age Group: Young Adult

Parental Warning: none

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                                                                                    The Near Witch

 The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. And there are no strangers in the town of Near.These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.

The Near Witch is only a bedtime story, a wives tale used to frighten young children. It's just a rhyme, used for merriment and children's games. Lexi's father used to tell her the story of the Near Witch. She was killed after the death of a boy who simply happened to fall asleep in her garden. The town's hunters thought they were doing the right thing.So what's happening now? Why are children being taken from their beds at night, only a few days after a stranger comes to town? People suspect the stranger, because no new people ever come to the town of Near, and it's only a matter of time before things go too far. Lexi uses her skill of tracking to find that the "sisters", the witches in town, are hiding him.As she gets closer to the stranger, she realizes that he might not be the key after all. Maybe it is the Near Witch rising from the dead. But could one witch really be so powerful?The Near Witch was a fairytale, a delicious slow story that also had some creepiness stirred in. It was almost deceptively dark, while still retaining the lovely fairytale vibe that I love to read about.I liked Lexi. She almost reminded me of Katniss, what with her father's boots and refusing to follow the rules. Lexi was headstrong and protective of her sister and I loved her. I loved her wild personality and I enjoyed how she interacted with the rest of the village. She wasn't afraid to risk being badly thought of to do what was right.Cole was that mystery enigma that puzzled me from the beginning. Although to me, a surprise in the ending wasn't much of a surprise. Things relating to him were slightly predictable, but not in a bad way. It was more of the type of surprise where you know what's going to happen and the main character doesn't, so you're just waiting for it to be discovered at the right time. Cole seemed to be honest as well, but you couldn't really tell with him, so you were suspicious of him almost the entire time.Victoria Schwab obviously put a lot of research into this about witchcraft and old wives tales and even the moor! Her writing was so good, probably one of the most well-written books that I have read this year. Her description was amazing and she phrased things so beautifully that I couldn't help but go back and reread it so many times.I wanted to live in this book forever. It was slow and lovely and I'm usually a really fast reader, but I made myself ponder every word so that I could keep reading. Once I read it, I immediately reread it again.The setting was so wonderful. There's this one setting that I call the "village vibe". In Eragon, Princess Academy, and more, there are those cozy small village settings where it is almost like a fairytale. There are legends and lore and small gatherings and it seems like only one thing is going wrong. There'll be a few strange outcasts, and some "elders" or "council members" and such. I really love that vibe and I loved how Victoria Schwab captured it perfectly.The plot moved pretty fast. I think it maybe covered a week. As more and more children went missing, suspicions were raised and tensions finally rose in the end. I did think that the ending passed a little quickly because I would have liked to see more of a showdown between the Near Witch and Lexi, but it was enjoyable.A languid and beautiful writing style, likeable characters, and an interesting plot make this a must read. I know that there's already been a lot of talk about this book, and my personal opinion is that it's going to be regarded as one of the best reads of the year.Recommended for anybody who loves: The Princess Academy; Eragon; The Hunger Games; Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost (the movie); village books; witch books; Hex Hall; etc,.Possible book club questions:How does Helena like to twist things for attention? How did this change when Edgar was taken?What are some other rhymes that have been based on a time of misfortune ("Ring Around the Rosy" for example)?How did Tyler's jealousy become the reason Lexi spurned him?Why do you think Lexi's father was so fascinated by witches? Do you think the sisters had a soft spot for Lexi because of this?The town doesn't trust the witches, but the witches do things for them anyways like making them charms. How is this hypocritical in their belief that witches aren't real or aren't good?There's a fairytale, the Selfish Giant (http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/SelGia.shtml), that is very similar to The Near Witch. How are the two stories both alike and different?etc,.