The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Publication: Yearling Books (first published 1972), Paperback, 183pg
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Middle Grade
Purchase at Amazon or BookDepository (affiliate info) or add it to your Goodreads shelf
Jessica has read enough books to know that her cat Worm must be a witch’s cat. He’s cast a spell on her, but to whom can she turn? After all, no one will believe that Worm has bewitched her...or worse. (from Goodreads)
I think this is the darkest Zilpha Keatley Snyder book I’ve read yet. It’s got the standard 1970s bad parent(s), a very mixed-up and abandoned kid, and a really creepy cat. I felt bad for everyone in this book, but especially for Jessica.
She doesn’t really have any positive role models and everyone ignores her, so much so that she has to resort to something drastic to get people to pay attention to her. If this were a Stephen King book, Jessica would have probably slaughtered the entire apartment complex, but The Witches of Worm is a little more subtle and sadder than that. Zilpha Keatley Snyder is really good at making things less obvious than you’d expect them to be, including the paranormal/fantasy elements. Is Jessica a witch, or is she just a messed up kid? Or both!
The worst part about the book, though, is how desolate most of it is. Jessica doesn’t have any friends, she hates everybody, and there’s a cat who’s (maybe) making her do things. (Or possibly she’s making HERSELF do things; it’s very vague.) The scene where she writes a “fake” story for her school counselor almost made me cry: it’s about a baby abandoned in a park and, just, SO SAD, because the baby is totally Jessica and she didn’t even see that. Hopefully the school counselor DID see it, and did something about it after the book ends– SOMEONE has to help her! I mean, yeah, she gets her friend back which is nice, but that’s not going to be enough in the long run.
Sooooo, The Witches of Worm: creepy, depressing, empty of happy things like friendship and family and love. Maybe don’t read it if you’re feeling sad– it’ll probably make you sadder. However! If you like those sorts of books, you’d definitely like Witches.
Quick note: don’t read the forward first because it ruins the rest of the book by telling you exactly what’s going to happen and why. So annoying! It’s good for background stuff (ZKS took real life events and put them into the book), but it totally messes up the experience of figuring parts of the plot out for yourself.
Read: June 15, 2013