The Burning

Laura Bates makes an impressive YA debut with The Burning.  Anna and her mother have left their home (and their identities–for the most part) back in Birmingham, moving to a small Scottish town.  From the beginning, Anna’s shame and sadness over what happened in England color the move.  While her widowed mother tries to act as if everything will be okay, Anna’s not sure she can ever lead a normal life again.  A new friendship with Cat and Lish have her feeling cautiously optimistic, but her desire to just blend into the background is blown when she inadvertently makes enemies with the resident bully at her new school.  And while she is trying to figure out her own path, Anna is captivated by the story of a young woman from St. Monans who was burned at the stake for witchcraft in the 1600s.

Bates does a wonderful job of tackling the harassment young women face in a variety of situations, from everyday sexism to extreme cyberbullying and shaming.  As the story unfolds, the characters choices and the ramifications of actions are explored with depth and care.  While it’s a very hard book to read, it’s immensely important and offers voice to many victims who are silenced by shame and fear.

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