Well Witched by Frances Hardinge is about Ryan, Josh and Chelle, three friends who find themselves indebted to a powerful centuries' old water goddess. When the three face possible punishment for being someplace they shouldn't be, their last recourse to obtain the money to get home is Josh's plan: steal coins from the wishing well. The plan by the group's notorious troublemaker unwittingly causes the well goddess, now a twisted and confused being, to require the friends to fulfill the wishes of the coins they took. Endowing them with "powers," the well "witch" compels them to do her will if they ever hope to be released from her service.
Ryan, the "smart" one, figures out what they need to do, but soon the wishes that seemed simplistic on the surface begin to go very wrong. People's lives soon hang in the balance.
This was a very creepy book. It was marked for ages 10 and up, but it seemed a bit scary to me. I guessed the characters to be around 11 or 12 years old. It reminded me of suspense, horror, and mystery stories all rolled together. I listened to it as an audio book in the car and I felt like I was in a gray cloudy cocoon even when the sun was out. It gave me chills.
The writing is descriptive and transports you to that gray world of Well Witched. The theme of water is carried superbly throughout and was probably one of the reasons it felt like a rainy day everytime I listened to it.
The characters were three-dimensional and incredibly average which is what makes what is happening to them so extraordinary. Ryan is the character we follow and he has been bullied in the past as well as Chelle. He practices not causing strife even when it is justified. Chelle is a nervous girl who looks to others to validate her. So when Josh, a slightly older boy who-if not popular but given a certain amount of cautious respect from other children-befriends them, he seems like a savior of sorts. Ryan and Chelle follow his lead. But when Josh becomes obsessed and out of control in his pursuit to please the well witch, both Ryan and Chelle must come into their own to save their loved ones, Josh and the wishers.
The book was long. There were 8 CDs and at times I wasn't even sure it would end. The plot was structured and flowed but had many unexpected turns. I had no idea which way the story would go at any given part. It was different for a children's book because of the frequently adult situations the children faced. It shows that they are keenly aware and are effected by what adults say and do.
I had to finish it to see the outcome, but it took me a month and a half because I didn't want to give my 6 year old nightmares from listening to it.
It is an intriguing book that envelopes you in its world. I didn't give it 5 stars because: 1) the target age group did not seem appropriate. The characters were off by themselves traveling by bus to different towns without much comment from the adults. 2) Ryan figures everything out and explains plot points. There is very little that happens that the reader has a chance to figure out on their own. There are very few clues to the mystery part of the story.
I recommend this book for readers who like being creeped out by the supernatural.