Review: Witness by Karen Hesse


Title: Witness

Author: Karen Hesse

# Of Pages: 161

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication Date: July 5th 2000

Source: Purchased

Rating: 2 Hearts



Leanora Sutter. Esther Hirsh. Merlin Van Tornhout. Johnny Reeves . . .

These characters are among the unforgettable cast inhabiting a small Vermont town in 1924. A town that turns against its own when the Ku Klux Klan moves in. No one is safe, especially the two youngest, twelve-year-old Leanora, an African-American girl, and six-year-old Esther, who is Jewish.

In this story of a community on the brink of disaster, told through the haunting and impassioned voices of its inhabitants, Newbery Award winner Karen Hesse takes readers into the hearts and minds of those who bear witness.


My Verdict

It’s always disappointing when you read one book by an author and absolutely love it and then you read another by them and don’t like it. That is pretty much what happened here. I had just read Out of the Dust the night before and was expecting another great book but instead was very disappointed with what I found.


This is a work of historical fiction about a small town in 1924 and how it affects them when the Ku Klux Klan moves into town. Told in five “acts”, the story unfolds before us through the eyes of eleven different characters, each passage told from a different point-of-view. The cast of characters was just too large and hard to keep track of. There was a cast list in the front of the book with pictures of each character, which was nice but I got sick of flipping back and forth between pages every time I couldn’t remember who someone was.  Needless to say this really hindered me from connecting with any of them.


Another thing I didn’t like about switching between such a large number of characters was that their ages ranged from six to sixty-six so one minute your in the head of a six year old with her innocent thoughts and the next minute your in the head of an adult who’s plotting to poison someone.


I apologize for the really negative review but this book just wasn’t for me. I am still planning to read more of Hesse’s work in hopes they will be more like my first experience with her writing, which was the polar opposite of this one.

4 thoughts on “Review: Witness by Karen Hesse

  1. Too bad you didn't like it :/ The Ku Klux Klan would have been an interesting topic to read about. The town turning against the main characters family sounds like it could have been very intense but too many characters is a drawback that I couldn't get over either. I like multiple characters but sometimes the author doesn't know that it's not necessary sometimes. Sometimes we write negative reviews but it's nice that you are honest. That's what reviews are for. To learn if you will like a book or not.

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