The Burning

The Burning

The Burning
Laura Bates

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

ISBN 9781471170201

'The Burning lights a fire in you - one that makes you want to fight for change and ignite sparks in others so the fire spreads and spreads.' - HOLLY BOURNE 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 ... New school. Tick. New town. Tick. New surname. Tick. Social media profiles? Erased. 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. PRAISE FOR THE BURNING: 'This is a book teen girls NEED to read' - Holly Bourne 'Bold, brutal & hugely important' - Abi Elphinstone 'Defiant and inspiring' - Katherine Webber 'Brilliant' - Stylist 'Essential reading for fans of Holly Bourne and Louise O'Neill' - The Observer PRAISE FOR GIRL UP: 'A bracing love letter to today's teenage girls' - Sunday Times 'Essential reading for young women and girls' - Morning Star Online 'This no-nonsense guide to being a girl in 2016 is one all teen girls should read' - Red magazine 'If you have a daughter or a niece or a younger sister or a goddaughter, buy it for them now' --The Pool PRAISE FOR EVERYDAY SEXISM: 'This is an important book' -Independent 'A potent reminder of how far feminism has come and how far it has to go' - Kirkus Reviews 'A game-changing book, a must-read for every woman' -Cosmopolitan 'Funny and clever' - Telegraph

Librarian's Book choice

Every so often a book comes along which you just know is going to be a huge hit. The Burning is one such. Contemporary social commentary, sophisticated foiled cover, powerful feminist fiction - and witches. Oh, and it's written by the founder of the Everyday Sexism project, Laura Bates. How can it possibly fail???

The Burning is billed as a 'fictionalisation' of the testimonies collected from UK teenagers who have experienced sexist behaviour, which it makes it feel all the more real and creates characters we really care about. It tells the story of 15 year old Anna, uprooted from Birmingham to start a new life in a small Scottish village with her mum, determined to cut all ties to the past and to 'the incident'. But there's no escape from social media and Anna's past quickly comes back to haunt her, the cruel bullying beginning again.

A school history project provides a welcome distraction, as Anna befriends an elderly neighbour to discover the true and previously untold story of Maggie, accused of witchcraft way back in medieval times. Bates subtly draws parallels between the witch hunts of days gone by with the unjust slut shaming of young girls today - 'the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn' - lending a new dimension to the feminist fiction currently blazing a trail through YA. Both Anna and Maggie are helpless victims, each blamed for the actions of another, and their stories weave together seamlessly.

A myriad of issues underpin, but never overshadow, the story - rape culture, rumour and revenge porn, gender roles and equality, and the damaging and destructive effects of cyberbullying and social media. Bates doesn't shy away from reality. The cruelty inflicted by fellow students is horrific, its impact devastating, making this a must read for anyone who works with teenagers today to make them understand exactly the pressures faced by teenagers forced to live out their lives on social media. She highlights too how much schools can be part of the problem - and the power they have to condemn double standards and bring about change. Parents too will find it both a shocking and an enlightening read.

The Burning is a book to make you understand, a book to make you think and a battle cry for change. Sexism is, as Laura herself explains, 'not a problem that came with the internet. It's about the way we've always treated women and girls and the way we continue to treat them today'. Changes in technology do not of themselves change deep-seated attitudes.

This is an exceptionally important and intelligently argued book that will leave you angry, inspired and determined to make a difference, it is a book which teen girls AND boys need to read. Schools need to make this book, and others like it, available to their students to increase awareness.

It's such a cliche to say I just couldn't put this book down - but I really couldn't. Older readers keen to find out more will enjoy Laura's non-fiction writing, Everyday Sexism and the game-changing, Girl Up as well as Caitlin Moran's very funny, How to be a Woman. Sixth form feminists will appreciate Amy Reed's The Nowhere Girls. Similar themes are tackled by Holly Bourne in What's A Girl Gotta Do.

Sexism, victim-shaming and trial by social media all form the basis of other highly recommended YA novels such as Asking For It by Louise O'Neill, The Exact Opposite of Okay/A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven, The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu and We Are Not Okay by Natalia Gomes. Other contemporary novels with strong themes of activism and feminism include Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu and Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan. Sally Nicholls looks at equality from a historical perspective in Things A Bright Girl Can Do. Younger campaigners will enjoy Vote for Effie by Laura Wood.

352 pages / Ages 15+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian.