I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis
Published by Random House Children's Books on August 24, 2021
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Bookshop
For fans of Lovecraft Country and Candyman comes a witchy story full of Black girl magic as one girl's dark ability to summon the dead offers her a chance at a new life, while revealing to her an even darker future.
Katrell can talk to the dead. And she wishes it made more money. She's been able to support her unemployed mother--and Mom's deadbeat-boyfriend-of-the-week--so far, but it isn't enough. Money's still tight, and to complicate things, Katrell has started to draw attention. Not from this world--from beyond. And it comes with a warning: STOP or there will be consequences.
Katrell is willing to call the ghosts on their bluff; she has no choice. What do ghosts know of having sleep for dinner? But when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go.
Only magic isn't free, and dark forces are coming to collect. Now Katrell faces a choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it's too late.
Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis is the kind of book that you have to force yourself to put down. I’m talking the sun will come up while you are still reading if you started the night before. When I first heard about this book, I was told that it would capture me and hold me hostage until I finished. Why did I ever doubt? It took me two sittings/evenings to finish this book.
This plot was smooth like butta’! I stayed in the story the entire time. I was constantly engaged and on the edge of my seat as I tried to anticipate what was going to go wrong next. Nothing was very predictable to me, so I was invested to find out what was going to happen from one page to the next.
More than just a spooky read
When I was considering this Bad Witch Burning for an October TBR hopeful it was because I was looking for a spooky read. Not too spooky, because I am still in recovery from Tiffany D. Jackson’s White Smoke. But just enough spooky to say I read something seasonal and was a good sport 🤣. I left the real horror reads and scary stories behind in my teen years. But what I got from reading Bad Witch Burning wasn’t just a spooky read, I got something so much more.
A Tale of Magic and Darkness
The story jumps off like this: Teenager talks to the dead for money to pay the rent. Ghost nana tells her to take a break. Teenager doesn’t listen because the rent is due. Teenager messes around and raises the dead instead of just talking to them, but also starts raking in the cash.
Katrelle has the world on her shoulders. She pays the bills, buys the groceries, goes to school, works a full time job. All the while her mom sits at home jobless and her mom’s good-for-nothing boyfriend of the month eats up all the food and beats on Katrelle. But no matter what, Katrell still tries to be the adult and provider despite the fact they are constantly triggering her survival mode.
This story contains both child and animal abuse.
Katrelle’s mom and Gerald are on my list of most-despised fictional characters right now. The cowardice of that disgusting man and the manipulation of her selfish mom… I took a few breaks to get up and fight the air a few times. Those two are downright enraging. The worst part is that Gerald is symbolic of the abuse that can be seen, but her mother is symbolic of the abuse and trauma that can not be seen.
Anger and magic should not be mixed
#BlackGirlMagic was used to describe this book, but I would like to add that Katrelle embodies #AngryBlackGirlMagic. The kind of magic that must find a way to coexist with the inner rage, anger and sadness. Katrelle must battle with what is right (leaving dead people dead) and what is necessary (rent has to be paid if she doesn’t want to be homeless). I felt so bad for Katrelle. Her anger was absolutely justified. Paired with her powers, it was also scary. She was burning with unreleased rage.
This book does a really good job of capturing what it feels like to live through childhood trauma. You get a look at the psychology and thought process of a teenager who is being manipulated and abused. Katrelle feels the need to protect her mom even though her mom doesn’t protect her from her boyfriends’ beatings. Whenever Katrelle pushes back and is met by anger and manipulation by her mother, she is confused by her own emotions and second guesses herself. Will, Katrelle’s best friend won’t even let anyone touch her because of her own childhood trauma that she was thankfully able to leave behind.
At times the trauma captured in the story feels overwhelming. Again, I really wanted to fight her mama. Trelle’s mindset is based in the understanding that she needed to protect her mother even though her mother doesn’t actually care about her. Will recognizes this and sees through Trelle’s mom. But Trelle can’t see it because it would be too much for her to handle.
Overall, Bad Witch Burning is a great debut novel. I look forward to more books by Jessica Lewis!
HAVE A SIP OF COCOA ☕…
I came for… a spooky read
I stayed for…. the sit down and don’t get up until you finish mesmerizing plot
Hot Cocoa Moments: When Will catches her voice and expresses her anger
Would I Read it Again: Yes
Educator Recommendations: This book has some trigger warnings so you need to let students know this before you recommend. But I think there is an importance of reading this for yourself too. Sometimes we lose empathy for the teen who sleeps in class, is late to class or doesn’t make it to class. We can miss the signs sometimes that something isn’t right. Teens could also be trying to mask those signs. This story is a wake-up call, reminder and a call for empathy for teens who are going through rough home situations.