Home > average but on the longer side, Book, Genre, GLBTQ, Length, Review, YA > Book Review: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (Series, #1)

Book Review: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (Series, #1)

Summary:
Hannah loves her life in Salem, Massachusetts – working at the Fly By Night Cauldron store selling witchy items while secretly being the real deal herself – an Elemental witch. She’s about to enter her senior year of high school and things are a bit complicated of course – there’s her ex-girlfriend, Veronica, and fellow Elemental to deal with and the fact that her best friend is a Reg (non-witch) and can’t know. But when an end of year party ends with a blood ritual, Hannah becomes convinced there’s a dangerous Blood Witch in town, and she wants to find her before it’s too late. Plus there’s the cute ballerina, Morgan, she’s trying to date.

Review:
If you’re looking for queer representation in your YA fantasy, this book is here for you. Hannah is a lesbian, her coworker at the Cauldron is a gay trans man (in his first year of college), and Morgan is bisexual. The queer characters aren’t perfect, and they do gently educate each other with people apologizing to each other and strengthening friendships. I love how realistic that is. It’s not a fantasy land of everyone just perfectly knowing exactly what the right thing is to say, but it is a world of mutual respect and trying to be there for each other and correct mistakes. Speaking as a bisexual woman, I found the representation of Morgan accurate and kind, which is more than I can say about a lot of bisexual representation in literature.

The plot is less gentle and feel-good than you might expect. There is more violence and even death than I was expecting based on the plot summary and the fact that it’s the first book in a series. If you’re thinking about this one, know that you will be getting a mixture of feel-good and real danger. This is also definitely a book that’s setting up the next book in the series. I immediately put the next book on hold in the library, and kind of wished I’d done it sooner so I could have read them one right after the other.

While there are witches who are Black and People of Color in the book, they all seem to come from outside of Salem. While it is true that Salem is 70.8% white and non-Hispanic (Data USA), I think even if one was using the argument that Salem is very white in real life, the lack of People of Color inside of Salem in the book isn’t accurate. I also think, personally, that we have a responsibility in literature but especially in YA where we’re trying to help youth feel seen and heard, to depict all types of diversity, not just diversity of the queer spectrum.

If you or someone you’re giving book recommendations to is looking for a YA book rich in fantasy and queer characters, this may be the right read. I would recommend being prepared to have a conversation about why greater diversity matters and ensure the reader is ok with some violence (not just of the magic kind). I’d also be prepared to just pick up both books right away as this one really leads right to the next one.

4 out of 5 stars

Length: 336 pages – average but on the longer side

Source: Library

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