Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down. Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart…
New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see.
While the other students embark on a slut-shaming mission against her, Anna has a project of her own to focus upon. She’s investigating the possibility that there may have been witches living in the little village she’s moved to, and that she may have found a necklace belonging to one of them hidden up in her attic.
As someone who has read and loved most of Laura Bates’ releases – particularly Everyday Sexism, which I would recommend everyone grab a copy of – I thought The Burning was bound to get five stars from me, but that wasn’t the case.
One of the first issues I had with the book was how unoriginal Anna’s story was. With the blurb and the cover nodding towards some kind of deep, dark secret, I was expecting something other than leaked nudes to be plaguing her. I’m not negating the seriousness of the events that Anna has to cope with, but I am criticising the way that the book was marketed. Knowing that Anna is investigating a girl from centuries ago who was accused of witchcraft, I was holding out hope that Anna’s secret might be more magical.
The pacing of the book was also very odd. When Anna is first settling into the school the pace is very fast even though it’s only focusing on everyday occurrences, but when her intimate images hit Facebook and the main story kicks off it all starts moving very slowly. In my school experience, if anything like this happened the school staff members would find out and get involved very quickly. Anna’s plight remaining undiscovered for weeks didn’t seem true to life.
I also felt as though the climax of the novel wasn’t realistic in the slightest. I’m not going to reveal what happens at the end of the book, but Anna’s actions didn’t feel authentic. Again, this issue could be chalked up to me setting my expectations too high: due to Bates’ history – tackling sexism by creating the Everyday Sexism project – I was hoping Anna would do something just as proactive as a response to her own troubles.
When I was a teenager I wasn’t interested in feminism at all, and I can’t think of a single one of my friends who identified themselves as a feminist. My interest in feminism didn’t develop until I was 18 and one of my colleagues introduced me to Laura Bates’ work. The Burning had the potential to be an accessible way to introduce young adults to feminism and its continued relevance, but the language used and the internal monologues showing the reader how Anna’s feeling just aren’t as engaging as they could have been.
I’m a fan of Bates’ and even I found my attention wandering, so it’ll be interesting to hear the thoughts of some younger reviewers as to whether this book had the intended impact upon them.
However, I did enjoy the way Bates’ linked the need for feminism in the modern era with the way that it was absolutely vital back in the 17th Century. Maggie’s story is harrowing and emotional, and I found myself wishing that she’d decided to focus on that story and tell it in its entirety, rather than just splashing it through in irregular flashbacks.
If you’re a young person who is interested in feminism but aren’t sure where to start, I would highly recommend trying Everyday Sexism or Girl Up! before you give The Burning a go. Despite the fact that they’re both non-fiction books, they’re a lot less dense and far more engaging than The Burning, so they should make it very interesting for you to learn more about feminism. It’s a good idea to get to grips with the basis of feminism before you read this book to see instances of everyday sexism and misogyny in action, because that’ll make The Burning far more influential upon you.
‘When my sister was eight years old, she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back.’ It’s hard to share my thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne without getting…
‘Is this what marriage is like? she wonders. A constant balancing act between infatuation and impatience.’ At first glance, it appears as though The Flower Girls is going to be a pretty cut and dry thriller. A girl disappears from a hotel on New Year’s Eve, and when a terrible storms starts raging outside it’s a race against time to try…
‘The truth was that it was about Whit and Kyle, and about lying to friends and wishing I could travel back in time to the start of the summer, when everything felt normal. It was about Bryan going to college five hours away. It was about people disappearing.’
When Maya’s boyfriend Whit breaks up with her, she’s heartbroken. They were planning to sleep together for the first time in a matter of weeks, and now he’s leaving her for Andrea Berger?! This is not the way her last summer before college was supposed to go.
Maya confides in her Aunt Cindy, who suggests that she look into the research her mom was doing just before she died. Turns out that Maya’s mom was trying to develop a serum that would renew attraction in couples, making it less likely that they would separate.
After she discovers the research, Maya runs straight to her mom’s old work partner, Ann. Ann begrudgingly agrees to continue Maya’s mom’s research, on the condition that Maya find a friend and a stranger that they can use the serum on as control subjects. Maya is overjoyed. In a couple of weeks, she’ll be able to remind Whit of why he fell in love with her in the first place, and everything will be back to the way it should be…
Chemistry Lessons was a huge disappointment. I will admit that I was primarily drawn to it because of its beautiful cover, but the concept of a serum that could fix relationships was an intriguing one. However, I couldn’t see past how unethical Maya’s research is. Her and Ann develop three serums using DNA from the test subjects, but none of them are notified about the experiment. Stealing people’s DNA? Not only is that creepy, it’s seven shades of wrong.
This is paint by numbers YA. So many of the scenes were ripped straight out of other stories – the stereotypical description of the abandoned attic, the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ excuse for ending the relationship… There’s nothing new about this book (apart from being based in science, which I’ve already told you I have problems with). Top it off with a gay best friend who’s about to move across the country to college, a swoony YouTube star and a friend who could be more, and you’ve got one of the most predictable cast lists.
It doesn’t help that the writing is basic and undeveloped. All the characters are described in very basic ways: brown hair, brown eyes; red hair, blue eyes; six foot one, five foot two. You can’t get emotionally attached to the characters because they’re flat. Even Maya’s feelings towards her dead mother are bland. Then there’s the use of vocabulary, which features more uses of the word ‘like’ than you can shake a stick at. Yes, people do say ‘like’ in real life, but not often in every single sentence.
However, Bryan is a gem of a character. Sassy and sarcastic, he had me giggling out loud at a few points throughout the story (especially with his inappropriate attraction to Maya’s dad!). If Meredith Goldstein decides to write a companion novel following Bryan to Syracuse, I’ll definitely pick it up.
If you’re looking to read a YA contemporary that’s a bit on the older side, Chemistry Lessons might appeal to you. With characters worrying about going to college and moving away from home, it’s refreshing to see those kind of aspects featured in a YA contemporary. Unfortunately there were too many issues for me to rate it any more highly, but if you can see past the unethical nature of the experiment you might have a bit more fun reading Chemistry Lessons than I did.
If you’re interested in learning more about Chemistry Lessons, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
‘It was our 9/11, our Princess Diana, our JFK. You’d always remember where you were when you heard about Being No. 1.’
Ten days after Jaya’s mother died, Beings started falling from the sky. Over the course of eight months 85 Beings fall, and no one knows where they’re coming from, who they are or why they’re falling. The worst part? Every single Being has died on impact. They’re physically unable to answer the questions on everyone’s lips.
Jaya’s father takes her and her sister, Rani, to Edinburgh for the summer, convinced that he’s figured out the exact time and place where the next Being will fall. But although he’s got the location spot on, his timing is a few days out… Which is why Jaya is the only one who sees the Being fall.
And this one? She’s alive.
I think you’ll agree that Out of the Blue has an utterly unique premise, but I was apprehensive before I read it. It’s been years since the YA angel trend and I wasn’t sure it was ready to make a comeback.
However, this is not your stereotypical fallen angel story. Yes, the Beings can be described as fallen angels – they have huge, shiny wings and fall from an unknown location in the sky – but there’s far more mystery to the Beings. In fact, the paranormal aspect of the plot is left open-ended.
If you’re hoping to read this to find the answer to the question of whether heaven exists, you’re out of luck. Sophie Cameron doesn’t preach or force her opinions on her readers, even though she’s writing about a subject which is bound to spark discussions about religion and the afterlife. Out of the Blue gives you the opportunity to explore your thoughts on these subjects, and with each of the characters having different thoughts on the matter you’re bound to find someone who you agree with.
The Beings are one of the least interesting aspects of Out of the Blue, which is saying something because they’re utterly fascinating! But this novel contains so many different things which aren’t commonly tackled in YA (specifically single father families, which I can only remember seeing featured in a handful of YA novels) that there’s bound to be something that appeals to everyone.
I often have trouble getting into stories that feature magical realism, but I was drawn in by Jaya’s sexuality: lesbian relationships are still underrepresented in YA, and it’s refreshing to encounter a character who is so matter-of-fact about their orientation. Jaya’s sexuality wasn’t a plot point, it was just a fact about her. I highly appreciated that.
There is definitely potential for the story to be continued, and I sincerely hope that it is. Well, in some ways it already is: Cameron’s wife has created an interactive Map of the Falls site, which will eventually be updated to contain descriptions of each of the Beings. That’s dedication for you! Fingers crossed that these little descriptions will eventually be extended into novellas, because I would love to read more of the Beings stories.
If you’re interested in learning more about Out of the Blue, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia and she’s unable to remember anything past the age of 11. That is, until she kisses Drake – her best friend Paige’s recent ex-boyfriend – on the beach during a party. Flora can remember kissing Drake, and she wonders if he…