My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Published: July 7th 2020
Trigger Warnings: Mental Health Issues, Parental Abuse, Body Horror, Some Gore
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along. But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for. – Synopsis from Goodreads
“It’s not love to give your wounds to someone else.”
Holy shit, that was a whole lot of weird and intriguing all balled into a mess of what the actual? Burn Our Bodies Down is not going to be the easiest book to review because I feel I would have to read it three times over to really get all the nuances and dynamics going on. Wilder Girls made my top ten list last year, will this one make the cut for me?
Let me try to break this premise down real quick – try and stay with me. It’s a bit weird, ok, a lot weird. Our main character Margot lives with her emotionally abusive and unavailable mother, she knows nothing of her mother’s past of any of her family. She goes snooping, finds her grandmother’s name and calls her. Her grandmother seems welcoming and warm, which Margot is desperate for and after yet another fight with her mother, she heads out to meet her grandmother in a little small town called Phalane. Upon arriving there, she meets some other kids her age and almost immediately after getting there, Margot hears of a fire on her grandmother’s land and all the kids go zooming towards it. The farm itself is engulfed in flames and Margot sees someone out in the fields of corn and runs to help – it’s too late though, the girl is already dead. Oh, and the girl is identical looking to her. This is just the beginning of this book, shit gets weird real fast.
The characters in this book are kind of hit and miss for me. I loved the main character Margot, she’s gloriously flawed and just so desperate for something concrete in her life. Her relationship with her mother is so toxic and heartbreaking, it’s really easy to understand how she would reach out to just about anyone for a feeling of belonging. I thought the mother’s character was well-done but hard to read, I wanted her to be better. I wanted her to do something right and she was just such a broken person. Felt very authentic though. Margot’s grandmother might be the most interesting of them all because I felt she was the most manipulative but not always with bad intent. I don’t want to get into that because you’ll see when you read the story. It was just a fantastic representation of a generation of women in a very damaged family.
The side-characters were only okay for me. They could’ve been developed better I think, but then again maybe that just had to do with the relationships with Margot – they didn’t really go too far most of the time. Margot is queer, and we do get a little flirting with one of the side characters but if you are looking for a romance or some hot, steamy queer love scene – this is not the book. There is no romantic plot in this book – this is purely about family.
I did really enjoy this book, I was confused and raising my eyebrows a lot at it but I feel like that is this author’s brand. She’s a little weird and we love her for it. Like Wilder Girls, this is going to be a polarizing read. It doesn’t have an opening ending like the other book, so I’ll be curious to see if it’s received better overall. Burn Our Bodies Down is a slower paced book and it doesn’t really speed up until the end when all hell breaks loose, so if you are looking for a fast-paced thriller/horror, you won’t find it here. You will find really solid storytelling.