Witches' Night Out
by Silver RavenWolf
Llewellyn, 240 pp.

"Witches' Night Out"--the first in a new teen-oriented Witches' Chillersseries by Silver RavenWolf--should come with a warning: "Don't try this athome." As any responsible Witch would tell you, performing rituals whenyou're filled with rage and suspicious of the other members of the circle isnot a good idea.As "Witches' Night Out" begins, Bethany Salem's beloved boyfriend, Joe, isdead, victim of a gruesome car accident, and Bethany believes he wasmurdered. She also thinks her best friends--all members of Bethany's Witches' Night Out club--have something to do with Joe's death. After asummer of allowing her bitterness to fester, she invites Nick, Karen,Tillie, and Nam over for a ritual to determine the killer's identity.

When Bethany invokes the "Hounds of the Wild Hunt" to find Joe's killer, shegets more than she bargained for. The ritual unleashes ominous forces (though Bethanyrefuses to believe the dogs that show up in her backyard are related tothe ritual), and her neighbors in the conservative town of Cedar Crest getwind of her magical activities. Soon the girls of Witches' Night Out aresuspended from school, two lose their jobs, and the cheerleaders at Cedar Crest Highattack Bethany with cigarette lighters. Worst of all, Bethany's father's evil girlfriend, Angela, istrying to send Bethany away to boarding school.

Through all these developments, RavenWolf, a Wiccan priestess and author of the guide "Teen Witch," pays lip service to the positive aspects of the Craftand goddess worship. Bethany's new housekeeper turns out to be a Witch whosespells help remedy Bethany's bad situations, and at one point Bethany, Tillie, and Nam--albeit in an unbelievable conversation--discuss theattributes of various goddesses and the nature of witchcraft: "That's thenice thing about Witchcraft. There are moral rules, but no one can tell youwho or what to worship."

But overall, the book reinforces negative media stereotypes of Wiccan teensas self-dramatizing, violent, anti-social malcontents. Members of the Wiccanand pagan community have expressed dismay at RavenWolf's recent projects(like her forthcoming Teen Witch Kit), criticizing her for catering tothe lowest common denominator of audiences interested in Wicca. "SR'sdecision to continue to link Horror and Wicca in such formatted novels isdisturbing....And since the audience aimed at is definitely non-Wiccan, itsets us all up for abuse," wrote one Beliefnet member on a discussion boardabout the topic.

Indeed, "Witches' Night Out" reads like an extended adolescent revengefantasy in which the Wiccan Rede--"An it harm none, do what you will"--plays no part.

To make matters worse, the book is shoddily written. Sloppy narration, poor sentence structure, and various small errorsmar the story, making it hard to follow at times. One shockingly violentevent follows another as Bethany and her friends explore the mystery ofJoe's death until "Witches' Night Out" builds to its improbable climax.A pity, since for most of the way "Witches' Night Out" is a fun, evenabsorbing read. Given the ongoing popularity of young-adult occult andhorror fiction, the book is likely to appeal to its intended teen audience,but the message of "Witches' Night Out" will probably not be appreciated byeither traditionally religious parents or pagan parents.