The one word I would use to describe Rory Power’s sophomore novel, Burn Our Bodies Down, is bizarre. There’s something about it that’s just…off. It’s like a Charlie Kaufman film. The sheer strangeness starts off small, but keeps growing as the story continues. By the end, I was dreading the book but unable to put it down. In short, it was exactly what horror is supposed to be. Based on the reviews I’ve been reading, it’s not a book for everyone. But if it works for you, it’ll shake you to your core.
What’s It About?
I fully recommend going into this one blind. Seriously, don’t even read this next part.
Margot grew up under the thumb of her paranoid and overprotective mother, Josephine. Because of that, she has no friends and no life outside of the family. Despite that, Josephine refuses to tell Margot a single fact about their family history or her past. Frustrated and desperate to know where she came from, Margot looks inside Josephine’s Bible and finds the name of her maternal grandmother. Once she contacts her long-lost grandma, Margot decides she will go to Josephine’s hometown and solve the mystery of her past once and for all. But what she sees when she gets to Phalene is more twisted than she could have ever imagined.
Creepy Cornfields Work
There’s a reason why there are so many horror movies and books that take place in settings like Phalene: rural, remote, and surrounded by cornfields. There’s this sense of isolation that comes from being in the middle of nowhere combined with the claustrophobia of being in a field of corn with no way out. Burn Our Bodies Down definitely capitalizes on that to create a feeling of disorientation and fear. It seriously had one of the most disturbing moods I’ve ever read in a horror book, which is even wilder because it’s YA.
The plot, as with most of Power’s novels, was really compelling. I could not put this book down and read it in effectively one sitting. I won’t spoil anything, but the slow realization of what’s going on in the Nielsen family is so unsettling, it repeatedly made my skin crawl. Where this story works best is in exploring mother daughter relationships and abuse. Burn Our Bodies Down did a phenomenal job of exploring the impacts of emotional abuse and isolation, and how that cycle is often repeated.
Was It Perfect?
No, as no book is. Wilder Girls wasn’t my favorite because that book felt like a fantastic buildup to a lackluster ending. I loved the ending of Burn Our Bodies Down, but the pacing was definitely off. I think the book would be a lot better if it spent more time developing the ending and continuing that feeling of slow dread throughout the back half of the novel. Another thing I think Power could have explored more was Margot herself being toxic to her friends. That would have really solidified the themes of the novel for me. Other than that, though, I adored this book.
Burn Our Bodies Down is a horrifying exploration of how people pass down trauma and abuse from generation to generation. The creepy cornfield town is just a lovely, trope-y bonus.(4.5 / 5)
“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut
Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.
I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.
Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.
Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.
The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.
This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.
Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.(5 / 5)
Buy it here!
A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”
“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?” — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.
The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.
Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.
This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.
It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.(4 / 5)
Woom: An Extreme Horror Novel
“That doesn’t invalidate it,” Angel said. “There’s no statute of limitations on pain.”
Angel is a man who knows pain: physical, mental, sexual. The story begins with Angel visiting Room 6 at the Lonely Motel and ordering a plus-size sex worker to his room. What comes next is Angel’s retellings of painful stories while performing sexual acts on the sex worker, Shyla.
The novel reads as a book of short stories, as Angel relays stories to Shyla and she tells him stories back. This is a novel of pain and disgust. Angel’s stories are so dark and traumatic that Shyla can’t believe they are true. As Angel bares his soul, we see a side of him that is melancholy and unable to process hurt in a natural way.
This novel is full of disgusting visuals and isn’t afraid to get dirty. This truly is an extreme horror novel. As a warning, there is discussion of feces, blood, rape, sex, and body horror. This novel is not for the faint of heart. You’ll close this short novel feeling dirty. Angel is a character that begs for sympathy while his stories narrate that he may not be as innocent as he perceives.
When the subtitle says this novel is extreme horror, believe it. Only the strong will survive Duncan Ralston’s Woom. It is more splatterpunk than anything, but true literary quality lies beneath the filth.(4 / 5)