Season of the Witch

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Season of the Witch Book Poster Image
Edgy psychological thriller mixes mean girls and spells.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers get to know a little bit about New York City's Upper West Side and how to possibly cast a spell. 

Positive Messages

Toni has a strong sense of self, even when she questions her own behavior. She takes some responsibility for her bad behavior and helps friends when they're in the dumps.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parents in Toni and Ella's world are pretty self-involved. Most of them are academics who pressure their kids to perform, holding them to a very high standard. Parents have sexual affairs and are not to be turned to in times of teen trouble. Some kids are good friends to one another, but there's lots of mean behavior at Toni's school.


The witchy aspect of wanting to cast a harmful spell ("I want her scared. I want her hurt. I want her humiliated.") casts a shadow over the entire book. A bullying assault on school grounds is brutal and graphic. Suicide attempts are depicted. Death and its aftermath plays a strong role in Season of the Witch.


Hookups are common, and kids are having adventurous sex by the time they're juniors in high school (including threesomes and sex with college guys). Sex is also used as power, as a kind of drug, and as a way to get revenge. "Taking a sex break" from a girlfriend is a reason for Toni and a boy to hook up. The "sex break" is taken because of a "pregnancy scare." 


Lots of strong language and coarse name-calling: "Caca," "bitch," "f--k and its variations ("I f--king hate you!"), "a--hole," "s--t," "s--tty," "d--k," "pissing," "d--ked over," "bulls--t," "whore," "slut," "ho," "weak ass," "chicken s--t." 


Chips Ahoy, Starbucks, Urban Outfitters, Fruitopia, Pinkberry,  Entenmann's, and TV shows Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol and "meds"are part of life in Season of the Witch. Toni and Cassandra drink two glasses of wine before casting a spell. A girl who's taking antianxiety meds drinks vodka at a party and gets so wasted that something truly terrible happens to her.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Season of the Witch is a psychological thriller that, like Gossip Girl, portrays life on the Upper East Side of New York as an empire of private school teens, casual sex, drinking, and drugs, self-harm, and eating disorders. Throw in some serious bullying and witchcraft, and there are dire consequences. Suicide attempts are depicted, and some people die. There's lots of swearing (including "s--t," "a--hole," and "f--k" and its variations). Teen sex is used as power or to exact revenge.

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What's the story?

Toni and her friends attend DeKalb Community School in New York City, a school started by professors at DeKalb University \"so that they'd have a cheap private school to send their kids to.\" Summer's over, and as school begins Toni knows she's in trouble. Alcohol was consumed; mistakes were made. She admits that she doesn't like to \"remember some of the things I did.\" Mean-girl Chloe, however, is poised to attack Toni for hooking up with her ex, Oliver. She threatens to make Toni's life a living hell. Toni's best friend Ella can't do anything to protect her, but Ella's strange cousin Cassandra can. Toni discovers that Cassandra practices witchcraft, and the two of them cast hexes and spells on the bullying girls. The spells seem to be powerful, and revenge feels sweet, until terrible things start to happen.

Is it any good?

SEASON OF THE WITCH is a smart, well-written page-turner featuring kids living a sophisticated city life. The city-savvy kids in this book have been exposed to their parents' affairs and to all manner of sex, drugs, and violence, and they suffer under their parents' very high expectations. Like Gossip Girl, this world is exciting, edgy, and seductive to teens. However, the consequences of their edgy behavior are extreme, and some people die.

Mariah Fredericks writes with a very strong voice, which suits the female characters who struggle to find the identity that brings them power. The main character, Toni, understands that although the princess in the fairy tale merely waits for the prince to save her, the witch takes control and sometimes wins. References to the mythological Cassandra and the ancient goddess Hecate are not lost on the educated reader, so the soap opera quality of the theme has some academic cred. But for teens who love Gossip Girl and Twilight, this book will scratch a certain witchy itch.    

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about female roles and stereotypes. How much does a reputation matter? What happens when your reputation is soiled or ruined? What can you do? 

  • Toni feels that she can't tell her parents or teachers about being bullied. Who can you talk to when you need more help than your friends can provide?

  • What are your views about teen sex? Is it OK in a committed relationship? Is it something you want to wait for? Can you talk with your parents about it? 

Book details

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