The Everyday Sexism… author and activist turns her hand to fiction in this YA sensation that’s a defiant and essential love letter to young girls. Read it, then hand it down to the next generation of women in your family.
In her debut YA novel, Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism project, interweaves a thoroughly 21st-century phenomenon – the “slut-shaming” of a teenage girl after her boyfriend broadcasts an intimate photo of her online – with its 17th-century equivalent: a young rape victim, shamed for bearing a child out of wedlock, is condemned and executed as a witch. These may be familiar stories, but in Bates’s assured hands they feel newly forged.... The Burning is filled with a sense of girls’ age-old shame and suffering, their suppressed, self-devouring anguish and their rage. Like Louise O’Neill’s novels Only Ever Yours and Asking For It, it forces the reader to confront what feels unbearable – vulnerable female flesh, exposed to unceasing scrutiny, manipulation and mockery. Moments of excruciating contemporary vindictiveness – as when as a false Facebook profile is constructed for Anna’s dead father, giving his location as “in hell” – are interwoven skilfully with analysis of historical horrors such as the ducking stool and the scold’s bridle.