Book Review: The Burning by Laura Bates
Publisher’s Book Description:
A rumour is like a fire. You might think you’ve extinguished it but one creeping, red tendril, one single wisp of smoke is enough to let it leap back into life again. Especially if someone is watching, waiting to fan the flames …
Social media profiles?
There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.
At least that’s what she thinks … until the whispers start up again. As time begins to run out on her secrets, Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a local girl accused of witchcraft centuries earlier. A girl whose story has terrifying parallels to Anna’s own…
The compelling YA debut from Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project and bestselling author of Girl Up.
The Burning is very much designed to be feminist literature that ties in several issues of today – slut shaming, revenge porn, female sexuality and reproductive rights – and links them to historical issues of the past, including witch burning. There was a time when my teen patrons couldn’t read enough books about witches and the witch trials of the past and I would have loved to have had this book to hand to them. It deftly draws a distinct line between the fervency of the witch trials to the patriarchy and the ways in which we try to repress, control and then shame female sexuality.
This book is set in Scotland and Anna and her mom have just moved to escape the intense slut shaming and bullying that Anna was receiving online and in real life. Soon after her father passed away Anna found herself in love, at least it felt like love, and over time with some grooming and intense pressure and emotional coercion, Anna shares some nudes with her boyfriend. When he asks for me she refuses and he retaliates by leaking what she has already shared in an act of revenge porn.
Revenge porn has been defined by the government as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.”Source: Psych Central https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-is-revenge-porn/
While in her new home and new school, Anna begins researching for a local history assignment and learns of Maggie, a woman who appears to have been accused of witchcraft. Anna develops a strong interest in and seems to have an even stronger link to this young woman, and the parallels between what the two have been and are going through are inescapable.
Because the Internet is forever, Anna soon finds herself once again being tormented by her past. And as her torment escalates, she is drawn even more deeply into the web of history surrounding Maggie. The two events are weaved together and used to talk about the ways in which we have tried to control, shame, and eviscerate young girls who dare to embrace their sexuality. The Burning doesn’t fail to point out, either, the double standard that we hold for girls and boys when it comes to bodies, sex, or sexuality.
Issues touched on include the historical witch trials, sexting, revenge porn, deepfakes, reproductive rights, bullying, slut shaming, and LGBTQ representation. There are frank discussions about sex, nude photos, and pornography in this book, though I think they are all obviously necessary to the book and handled well.
There’s a lot to unpack and discuss in The Burning, which isn’t surprising given the author’s previous work and writings. Laura Bates is an unabashed feminist who founded the Everyday Sexism project in 2012. In The Burning, Bates challenges us all to think deeply and critically about a lot of issues surrounding teen girls. Towards the end of the book several characters make radical choices and powerful statements that made me cheer. Definitely recommended.
This book will be released April 7th, 2020 from Sourcefire Books. I read an ARC of this book and immediately handed it over to my teenage daughter so that we can talk about it.
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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