Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power (2020)
YA Fiction | Mystery? Horror? Supernatural? Sci-Fi?
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.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.
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pooled ink Review:
What to say about Burn Our Bodies Down…
When I first opened the book and set my eyes upon the page I was intrigued. An interesting first line, I thought. Then for whatever reason (truly this could just be more of the same struggle to focus I’ve been experiencing during this ever ongoing ‘rona lockdown) I struggled to pay attention. I tried more than once to make it past the first page and it wasn’t until the day of book club (because this was the pick for my book club this month) that I finally sat myself down and decided to just skim read the thing so I could at least make a passable attempt at keeping up with the discussion. This seemed to be the trick. As I skimmed and read at double speed I started finding myself pausing to slow down more and more until I’d finally managed to submerge myself into the story and hoped I’d have enough time to read at my normal pace, to really enjoy the book, before our meeting.
That was the beginning.
At first I thought this was a slightly bizarre, eerie, mysterious, twisty, captivating story that was written in a way that’s a cross between a confession, a poem, and a scary story told around a campfire. I was captivated and willing to fall into the story, follow and see where it goes, walk by Margot’s side as she slowly began chipping away at history in demand of answers. Then I got towards the end and have no words except that I cannot even look at produce without shuddering. This book ended up being weird and not the good kind of weird. That being said I did overall like the writing style and the majority was suspenseful and intriguing despite building no emotional connection to the main (or any) character. So I guess there is that.
If you want to go read the book for yourself and discover why I had such a random seeming reaction then stop now. If you’re rubbing your hands together eager for spoilers then by all means carry on.
So this book takes place in what appears to be present day Nebraska and follows a teenager with a mother that displays maybe bipolar symptoms who got pregnant young and ran away with her baby refusing to ever return home. Margot is now seventeen and knows literally nothing about anything besides who her mother is. She doesn’t know if she has other family, where she was born, why her mom left, who her dad is, nothing. Very mysterious no? Eventually Margot stumbles across a photograph with the name of a place and a phone number. Behold she makes first contact with a grandmother she didn’t know she had.
Margot pursues this natural desire to know her roots, her history, and she barely has a chance to begin before arson and a body welcome her to town. Color me intrigued. There is so much to the story, even the way it’s written, that just had me turning page after page curious for answers but not wanting to rush it or simply skip to the end. So that’s what I did. I turned page after page and then suddenly I blinked, did a mental double take, and wondered what the hell was going on because things take a turn into straight up weird AF. Utterly bizarre, super weird, and honestly felt almost like it should be a separate book idea. Thankfully when I logged on for book club everyone else stared at one another before finally confessing that we all thought this book was weird and that we weren’t sure how else to describe it lol. Clones, pregnancies sans-fathers, fruit with teeth in them, girls born of fruit rotting from the inside out…this freaking small town takes murder, secrecy, and creepiness to a whole other level omg.
It just was such a weird turn?! I know it was probably supposed to be a clever twist no one would see coming and no I did not see that coming at all, but instead it felt a bit too out of place with what preceded it and was also just a straight up weird AF idea to begin with. I don’t like it haha. Maybe if it had been set up differently, maybe a more sci-fi plot or something…but as it was this book began as a modern day teen searching for her father/family until it hits those ‘shrooms and starts sprouting people from produce. The next time I drive past a field of corn or traipse through an orchard I will remember this book, I will shudder and gag, and I will shake my fist (teasingly) at the book club that had me read it.
Burn Our Bodies Down is a suspenseful read with interesting prose that sets up a premise of mystery, mothers, and murder until it reveals its unexpected truths which are rotting seeds of the bizarre, the twisted, and the weird. If you enjoy stories with suspense, horror, and the creepy unnatural (what would you even call it? Sci-fi? Supernatural?) then perhaps this read will delight you with every bite. As for me, I wish I had the version sans fruit clones.
Meet Rory Power!
Rory Power grew up in New England, where she lives and works as a crime fiction editor and story consultant for TV adaptation. She received a Masters in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and thinks fondly of her time there, partially because she learned a lot but mostly because there were a ton of bunnies on campus.
She is represented by Daisy Parente at Lutyens & Rubinstein and Kim Witherspoon at InkWell Management.