bullying in the digital world is a poison

rating: ★★★★★
title: The Burning
author: Laura Bates
release date: March 7, 2020
setting: Scotland
publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
genres: contemporary ya, abuse/mental health

I received a digital arc of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It has been a while since I have read a standalone novel that has pulled me in from the very beginning and didn’t let go. This is part cautionary tale, part history lesson, part glimpse into the ugly truth of bully culture and slut shaming. I am floored at the amount of feelings that this book brought up for me.

Anna has dropped her entire life and moved to a different country with her mother to escape her past, a past that catches up to her no matter how happy she finds herself in her new life. She had deleted all social media and any trace to her old life in England, but somehow, after finding herself a group of seemingly genuine friends in Scotland, she is thrown into that same hell she ran from. Running parallel to the hell she is dealing with, she is uncovering some strange things in her new house. Upon finding a necklace in the attic, she is caught up in intense dreams every time she closes her eyes. Dreams about a young woman named Maggie who lived in the town in the early 1800s, amidst the witch burning culture.

I have to say that I found an odd disconnect between the dreams, in which Anna is seeing Maggie’s life and the life that Anna is actually living. I understand the intent, but I found it distracting. Aside from that, this book was pure perfection. Anna is bullied relentlessly and it was heart breaking! There were times that I wanted to scream at the book, and times when I shed actual tears at the unfairness of it all. It was a whole experience that I am so glad to have been a part of.

I am now left with the feelings of sadness that girls (people in general, really) actually go through these things that occur in this book. In this generation of technology being so completely at our fingertips to the point of it being second nature, we leave kids open and vulnerable to the absolute worst kinds of bullying and torment. This is an eye opening glimpse into what can and will happen when secrets and private moments can be instantaneously shared, altered, faked and anonymous.


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.
New town.
New surname.
Social media profiles?
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…

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