It’s been a hot minute since I started The Near Witch by VE Schwab, but I finally got a chance to sit down and finish it, and unfortunately my prediction of “this is just going to become a love story, isn’t it” came true.
Lexi, our main character, lives in a village called Near, and falls in love with a mysterious stranger she names Cole (because he won’t tell her his name). “There are no strangers in Near,” as the saying goes, and the stranger arrives a day before children start going missing. Of course, everyone in this backwards village believes the stranger does it, and it becomes Lexi’s mission to prove them wrong, and find the real culprit. (Which, spoiler alert, the title tells you from the very beginning.)
In terms of story, I really like the tale of the Near Witch. It shows exactly what happens when you let fear rule you, when you turn yourself over to mob rule and jump to conclusions before understanding all sides of the story. There’s danger and consequences to not understanding the full story before you run headlong into it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I think I’m getting too old for Young Adult fiction. Lexi is just sixteen (possibly as old as eighteen, but I don’t think she’s that old) and she falls in love with the first stranger that passes through the border of the town. It’s so cliché and slightly upsetting. Lexi isn’t any different from any of the other “headstrong” young teenage heroines: only she knows what’s really happening in the village, and nobody believes her because she’s just a girl, so she teams up with the stranger to prove everyone wrong, nearly proving everyone right in the meantime. It’s so tiring.
The Near Witch is what I’d consider a “popcorn book” – there’s no real substance to it, but if you want to kill an afternoon (it’s under 300 pages), pick this one up and you’ll be transported away for an afternoon. I bought the special Barnes & Noble edition with an extra introduction, an interview with the author, and the short story detailing Cole’s past included, so I got a little bit of a bonus once the story was over. I do want to emphasize that this is Schwab’s first book, and you can tell the difference in writing style between the main book and “The Ash-Born Boy” short story at the end of the novel.
All in all, I’d give this a solid 3/5 stars. It’s nothing special and doesn’t really add anything to the genre, but it does have a fun “fairy tale” esque feeling to it in the story of the Near Witch. I just wish it wasn’t so tropeish.
Have you read The Near Witch? What were your thoughts? Do you agree that I’m getting too old for YA since all I do is complain about the teenagers falling in love in a day? Let me know in the comments!
And as always, keep reading.