Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Spotswood, J. (2012). Born Wicked. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 

ISBN-13: 978-0142421871

Genre: Fantasy, Witches, Magic, Marriage, Coming of age, Religion, Witch hunts

Reading level/ interest age: 15+

Plot summary:

Cate is the older of her two sisters and thought to be the most powerful witch among them. Since their mother died, Cate has taken her mother’s dying wish to heart. She has done her best to protect her sisters from the Brotherhood who would see them burned for their witchery. In the town of Cahill, women who reach the age of sixteen must declare their intent to either marry or join the Sisterhood. Desperate to keep her sisters close by, Cate struggles with the inevitable choice she must make. Paul seems to be a fine suitor as he was a childhood friend but he has changed much since he came back from university. Then there is Finn, the quiet gardener, who seems to understand Cate better than her sisters but is poor and unable to support his family. When Cate’s father demands that his daughters have a governess, Cate panics with the thought of having to hide her family’s secret from another person. However, the governess turns out to have more tricks up her sleeves than anyone could have expected. 

Reader’s annotation:

Cate, Maura, and Tess are all very gifted witches growing up in a town famous for its persecution of women practicing the craft. To top it off, the three sisters might be the subject of what an ancient prophesy has foretold. Cate just wants to keep her sisters safe but with her fellow witches seeking their power, it’s all she can do to fend off the townsfolk. 

Information about the author:

“I've wanted to be a writer since I wrote a story about my grandparents' cabin in Mrs. Eisenhart's class in fourth grade. In fifth grade, I got in trouble for reading under my desk while the teacher was talking. Then in sixth grade I read Gone with the Wind. It changed my life. The characters of Scarlett and Rhett leapt off the page; they were flawed and clever and fascinating. In high school, I wrote three sprawling historical romance novels full of kissing and banter. In retrospect, they were dreadful (I had not been kissed myself at this point), but it didn't matter; I fell in love with creating characters and writing into the wee hours of the morning. I also played clarinet in the marching and concert bands and tenor sax in the jazz band; edited the newspaper; was copy editor for the yearbook; and acted in a bunch of school plays. My favorite role was Beth in Little Women. I died splendidly.

“I left my tiny one-stoplight hometown (Biglerville, PA) to attend Washington College. Within my first week there, I had auditioned for two plays. Writing mostly fell by the wayside because I was spending thirteen hours a day in rehearsal. The drama department at Washington College was amazing; it taught me to value creative collaboration, ask questions, and give tactful feedback (all skills that have been crazy-useful in my writing career). I directed a production of Elie Wiesel's The Trial of God for my drama thesis and wrote a play for my English thesis. It was at WAC that I met my husband, Stephen Spotswood, and a fabulous group of friends who are still my besties.

“Now I live in a hipster neighborhood in Washington, DC with my brilliant playwright husband and a very cuddly cat named Monkey, and I am a full-time author” (Spotswood, 2014).

Curriculum ties: N/A

Booktalking ideas:

1.       What are your thoughts on the Brotherhood’s rules?
2.       How do you think growing up in a time like this would affect your personality and life choices?

Critical evaluation:
Another typical young adult fantasy book rampant with magic and pristine, attentive male characters. Cate’s character does have some good qualities in her devotion to her sisters but her mentality is not believable for a sixteen year old despite her swooning during several kissing scenes. Tess, the youngest sister, is actually the most interesting character in the book but she is hardly mentioned and her powers that manifest towards the end are shocking as the author sets up Cate to appear the most gifted. Told from Cate’s perspective, there is not much growth of character by the end of the novel. She only has a stronger resolve to protect her family. Perhaps the reader’s attention would have been better netted if Cate had actually made a mistake and chosen wrong rather than to be self-righteous. The two boys trying to win Cate’s affections are dull because at the end of the book, both simply let her go off to join the Sisterhood instead of fighting for her to stay. Though predictable, the book was still enjoyable and is best read in autumn as this is when the story takes place.

Challenge issues: 

·         Witchcraft

Defensive Maneuvers:

·         Have the library’s collection development policy memorized and on hand in case a situation arises.
·         Keep positive reviews on hand to refer to or hand out when needed.
·         If the book has won any awards, mention them to the patron and briefly explain the award.
·         Listen to the patron and practice good customer service skills when communicating. Let the customer know where or if he/she can escalate his/her complaint.
·         When necessary, cite sections of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights or refer to the ALA's Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials.

Why included:

Though I originally came across this book as a weeded copy from my local library, I believe that it was simply not well marketed. I believe that teens will enjoy reading about Cate’s struggle with coming of age and like the fact that this is a series of books.


Spotswood, J. (2014). About Me. Retrieved August 25, 2014 from

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