Contemporary (Teen)

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

A YA contemporary feminist novel written by the founder of the Everyday Sexism project


Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This blog contains affiliate links. I make a small commission when you decide to buy books via the Amazon or Book Depository purchase links available in the book review's post.


The Burning book cover

The Burning

by Laura Bates

Published January 21, 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 1471170217

Data from Goodreads

Summary (Goodreads):

A rumor is like fire.

Once a whore, always a whore.

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Anna’s a slut.
We all know it’s true.

And a fire that spreads online… is impossible to extinguish.

New school. Check.
New town. Check.
New last name. Check.
Social media profiles? Deleted.

Anna and her mother have moved hundreds of miles to put the past behind them. Anna hopes to make a fresh start and escape the harassment she’s been subjected to. But then rumors and whispers start, and Anna tries to ignore what is happening by immersing herself in  learning about Maggie, a local woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century. A woman who was shamed. Silenced. And whose story has unsettling parallels to Anna’s own.

From Laura Bates, internationally renowned feminist and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, comes a debut novel for the #metoo era. It’s a powerful call to action, reminding all readers of the implications of sexism and the role we can each play in ending it.

My Review: Important Message, Not-So-Great Delivery

A strong feminist novel with witches? I was so excited to read this novel! Instead, I got a mess.

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 (Click to reveal spoiler) 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 (Click to reveal spoiler) 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 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.

5 thoughts on “Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

    1. I know! I was so excited for it but it just didn’t live up to my expectations, especially considering the number of feminist books I’ve been reading recently. My next read was definitely better than this one, though!

    1. Yeah, unfortunately, the author is just a bit too heavy-handed in the way she approaches her feminist themes. It would be better to pass on this one.

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