Cover Image: The Burning

The Burning

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Member Reviews

I could not finish this book.
I found myself bored through what I did read. 
The plot seems to start out really slow to the point where I just couldn’t keep going.
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Unfortunately this was not the right book for me and I ended up DNFing at 30%. It's probably a simple case of it not being for me. Thanks very much to Netgalley and the publisher.
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I tried and tried to get into this book, and I just couldn't. It seemed to go slow, and I wasn't engaged by the characters. I was really looking forward to this book, and I'm disappointed that it didn't turn out to work for me.
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Thank you to netgally and the publisher for sending me an e-arc for this book. All opinions are my own. 

I read this book some while ago, but I forgot to write a review. So here it finally is. 

I was ready to love this book, but it just didn’t work for me. Overall it was a nice story and Scotland will always have a place in my heart.
I did finish the book and I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I will buy the book for myself.
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I got around to reading this during my April ARC reading vlog and overall really enjoyed this book!  Definitely not what I expected but in a good way!
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This book was so powerful. For someone who was bullied a lot in high school, and only had a handful of friends stick by me through it all, this brought me to absolute tears.
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The Burning is a YA novel about women, and how – even though it seems like sexism is a thing of the past – a lot of archaic practices are still rooted in modern society, hiding behind ideas like “morals” and “values” and “boys being boys.” Anna, our protagonist, is running away from a scandal at her old school where she was slut-shamed so much that her mother changed their identities to give them a fresh start. Once in her new home in Scotland, Anna starts to discover the area’s history with witch trials and soon finds that she has a connection with one of the girls of years past. 

I read the American version of this British book. I think that the American publication of this changed too much language. It made the writing feel inauthentic and brought me straight out of the story. I think that the publishers underestimated the intelligence of American teenagers. They’ll understand if there are no midterms in Scotland.

Anyway, I found myself becoming totally engrossed in the witch trial aspect of the novel. Maggie’s story was painful and emotional and almost difficult to read at times, and it definitely incited the anger that Bates was after. Maggie’s story also ties in unexpectedly well with Anna’s – though there are some unexplained supernatural elements in the story that really threw the whole thing a little out of whack for me. 

At times, The Burning did feel exaggerated. Laura Bates, the author, took inspiration from reports of real-life bullying from girls as part of her work in the Everyday Sexism Project, but Anna’s sudden, larger-than-life bullying felt almost cartoonish, or like I could have watched it on Riverdale. I think that the story could have benefitted from bullying on a smaller – or less creative – scale. This way, the story could have been more relatable and helpful to people who have gone through similar trauma as Anna. 

There’s a lot of issues that Bates tries to tackle in this book – with trigger warnings for a whole barrage of issues such as rape, abuse, underage pregnancy, abortion, sexual assault, slut-shaming, homophobia, and depression. This might seem like a lot to have in a 350-something page book, and it is! A lot of the issues described in the novel can feel shoehorned in without a satisfying conclusion, and yet the book still felt too perfectly wrapped up at the end, with an ending that’s reminiscent of and then everyone clapped. 

Despite its flaws, this book has a lot of heart and the historical storyline, as well as some of the characters, is what really makes it the powerful, feminist book that Laura Bates set out to write.

Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this novel prior to its release.
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This is a really enjoyable YA read with a feminist twist.

The story is a little slow to get going but, once it did, I really enjoyed the comparison between historical witch trials and the modern day 'witch hunts' and the way young girls are vilified for their sexuality.

Laura Bates did a really good job of invoking emotion from me as a reader and I also really enjoyed the strong female friendships depicted.

Highly recommend.
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I wouldn't say the mystery in the plot was exceptionally strong, but what I did like was the commentary on the pressure that young girls are under and how cruel teenagers and social media can be.  I liken it to a modern Scarlet Letter, but without the extremely depressing ending, and like the lessons that are learned throughout.
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Sexism is not over and the people who tell you so are either ignorant or malicious. Anna wants nothing more than to move on from the harassment. Yet, when someone quite frankly psychopathic hounds her into her new school, she has no choice but to fight back. 

This is a story drawn from many elements of truth. The people who think they're justified are relentless with their bullying. From small taunts that escalate into stealing, Anna doesn't know where to turn. Pictures from her past resurface and the campaign to torment her takes a turn into even more illegal tactics. I'm talking deepfakes. How the hell do teenagers have the processing power to create multiple deepfakes? It's not like this is easy, but I guess this is to make the story kind of harrowing.

Concurrently, Anna is tasked with a history report that leads her to discover the story of Maggie Morgan. A woman who was accused of witchcraft and who used to live in Anna's new house. What I find distracting is how there's an element of actual magic the author tries to write off as possible spiritualism of her soul having unfinished business. It's confusing and draws attention away from not actually knowing happened but still believing a woman when she says something is wrong. I think if we can all access a victim's memories then we wouldn't have an issue that we do now and the power of believing women would be much easier to do. 

While The Burning tells a straightforward story, it presents an obstacle with itself. The way a small mistake turned her friends against her is almost preposterous and is obviously used to isolate Anna. The many flashbacks make it seem Maggie was actually a witch and defeats the point that she was falsely accused of literal witchcraft. If the message was that no matter if you are witch, you should not be murdered than that's a different story. In the end, Anna reconnects with her mother after evading and trying to take on the harassment by herself. She then does this, I'm sorry corny speech, and everyone is so impressed they all clapped in the end. I know it sounds like I'm making it up but I'm not. The statement is powerful but high school is the stronger force that wouldn't allow that to happen. 

I recommend this to fans of books tackling high school peer pressure and female friendships.

Thanks to NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire for an advance reader's copy in exchange for a fair review!
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What a cool and thought provoking read. It's almost too bad that it's a YA book because more people would read it if it was classified differenlty.
Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for providing me with and arc for an honest review!
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The Burning by Laura Bates is an interesting blend of contemporary story telling with a dash of historical fiction. The contemporary story deals with an all too familiar topic in today's high schools--girl takes blame for boy's bad behavior and bullying ensues. The story is well told, if not uncomfortable at times. Overall, a worthy read.
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This story provides commentary on very real and important issues that teenage girls face and provides an interesting juxtaposition by adding in flashbacks to the Salem Witch Trials. The story was composed incredibly and will hopefully help teenage girls realize that they are more than some of the horrors they are forced to survive.
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i enjoyed the mystery of this book, and then I also thought it was a strong moral lesson. So often young women are held to unfair and unrealistic standards. I think this book deconstructs this in a productive way. I think that this book is timely, I also enjoyed that it had a sub story of history and witches and what was actually behind women being tried as witches. I think this is a great YA topic as I am sure young people are challenged with social media and gender standards.
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High school can be the best and the worst of times. It's where you can make lifelong friends and pick up lifelong traumas. Add to that the sheer confusion of growing up in a female body, and all the pressures and developments that brings with it, and you have a veritable roller coaster of emotions. In The Burning Laura Bates shows us the dark underbelly of these experiences, while also giving us a historic perspective. Thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Fire and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

The Burning focuses very strongly on the ways a female body is policed, but does so from the perspective of the young girls themselves. Bates makes very clear the pull to both sides that I think all girls have felt. On the one hand there is the thrill of revealing, teasing, playing, giving what is asked for. On the other hand there is the need to protect, to cover up, to hide away, to be safe and respected. The middle ground between these two sides is as sharp as the edge of a knife and we never quite find the balance. We are either too slutty or too stuck up and it is a constant back and forth, all with the secure knowledge that whatever happens, it will probably be blamed on you. I would attach a warning to The Burning, however, as its descriptions of revenge porn and bullying are rather intense. It is good that Laura Bates doesn't shy away from the horror of its pervasiveness and the ease with which it is spread these days. But it could prove triggering for some readers, hence my warning. However, Bates does her best to infuse The Burning with a sense of hope as well.

Anna and her mother have left everything behind to start anew. As the reader you don't know why immediately, but there are enough hints that perceptive (female) readers will be able to pick up on the why pretty quickly. Anna's history comes to haunt and traumatize her, as well as those around her, and it becomes clear that it is impossible for her to be considered innocent. As her own life spirals, she finds fortitude from a history project, for which she selects to research Maggie. Maggie herself was at the centre of a scandal, accused of witchcraft, and as her narrative intertwines with Anna, the latter gains a newfound strength from this connection to the past. I really enjoyed the way Bates brought together past and present. Although vastly different situations, something is gained from both Anna and Maggie's narratives, even if it is quiet strength in the face of an oncoming storm. It also highlights other themes in The Burning, which is the need for solidarity between women, the need for institutional support and the holding accountable of men's actions. 

Laura Bates tackles a number of difficult themes in her novel which could have easily overwhelmed the plot. What impressed me was the way that Bates managed to keep the tone and message appropriate for a younger audience without drawing a veil over the more horrifying aspects of sexual harassment. The novel's language is straightforward and simple but at times also deeply lyrical, especially in Maggie's passages. Bates allows her characters to be teenagers while her adults are also allowed their full breadth of emotions. I will admit I was slightly biased in The Burning's favour as it's set in Fife. At one point Anna visits the St. Andrews' University Library and I was hit by a major wave of nostalgia. I was gripped by The Burning and found myself unable to put it down. I became rather attached to its characters and, despite its difficult topics, I found myself warmed by the reading experience.

The Burning is a great read that tackles difficult themes. It is a very timely read that, although not a manifesto, does its part in spreading awareness and bringing hope. 

This review will be featured on A Universe in Words from 6/7/2020
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I very much enjoyed this book. The writing is good, the characters are believable and the story is so so important.

I love how Anna's story intertwines with Maggie who's persecuted for witchcraft in the 17th century. I work with Scottish archives and can say that Laura Bates her done her homework and made kirk session records more interesting and accessible than I ever thought possible! It feels like there's a touch of magical realism to the story, but not so much that it's cheesy. It's perfect.

I thought the parallels between what Anna is going through - - persecuted and "slut shamed" by her peers - - and what Maggie went through was a very clever way to tell the story. The setting in a wee coastal village in Fife is also beautifully drawn. It's nice to see some YA set in Scotland! Though maybe NetGalley has the US version of this book up? There were a few times when "pants" and "trash" stood out like a sore thumb.

All in all a great read tackling some really important issues, ancient and modern.
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A book that drew me in.A book of issues teens face today particularly cyber bullying.This book would be perfect for teen book clubs so much worth discovering.#netgalley#sourcebooks
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My Review: Important Message, Not-So-Great Delivery

The Pros: What worked for me

I liked the main character of the story. Her fears, her anxiety, her behaviour … it all made sense and it made me really understand her and empathize with her.

I also think the intent behind the story was really good and important. The author of this novel is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project – and it really shows! The author takes every opportunity to highlight gender disparities that are present from a young age and how detrimental this can be to female development and self-esteem. This is something I support and can really get behind.

The Cons: What I didn’t like

The writing style, while setting a decent pace, used way too many metaphors – and some were even in conversations! No one speaks like that in real life, and it would definitely not be teenagers!

I didn’t like that the author essentially made almost all of the male characters in this book negative figures. While I am a feminist and strongly advocate for women’s rights, I’m also uncomfortable with the idea that all men are the problem. The book oversimplifies this by really dramatizing the behaviours of certain characters, which I didn’t like at all. Simply put, I don’t want to read a book that screams “men are trash”. 

This novel was trying to do way too much. What started off as a novel about a girl desperate for a fresh start quickly shifted into a monologue-style novel about girls struggling for acceptance while dealing with their newfound sexuality, and then it would shift again to a fantasy-historical story where our protagonist is able to see “visions” of a woman accused of being a witch (and even here, there was juvenile writing about how it was all the fault of men). I wish the author had just stuck to one thing and done a good job developing it.
Even if the author had just stuck to Anna’s story, the author would have struggled to edit things down to be concise. There are so many feminist issues being addressed from leakage of nude photos and the judgement behind that to consent to abortion to grief. For such heavy topics, there was a lack of proper gravitas and development. 

The ending of the novel was also pretty cringy and it just didn’t help this book at all.

While I will always support books that promote themes of gender equality and feminism, at the end of the day, I’m reviewing the quality of the novel as a whole. And this book just didn’t cut it. For those reasons, I’m giving this 2/5 stars.
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A stunning novel that weaves together the history of witch hunts and the current reality of social media and how often both can be used to punish women for choices they make with their own bodies and how they define their self worth. When Anna and her mother relocate to Scotland after her fathers death and a scandal at her old school they are both anxious for anew start. But the internet, and some people, forgets nothing and soon Anna finds herself overwhelmed. Woven into Anna’s story is that of Maggie who may or not have lived in Anna’s house but Maggie needs to get her story out and maybe Anna can help. A poignant commentary on the power of rumor, suggestion and mob mentality and why women are punished for the crimes against their bodies and not the men who perpetrate them.  A fantastic book for a book club read as so much to discuss!
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This started off as a great premise, dealing with slut-shaming and cyber bullying, but the supernatural elements pulled me out of the story. I think this would’ve been better as a coming of age story, dealing more with the main character dealing with the bullying after moving to a new school. 

I enjoyed the parallels made between Anna and the woman she was researching, but that’s about where my enjoyment ended. I think the author was trying to tackle too much in one book and I couldn’t really place a finger on what the story was trying to be.
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