Review: Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes

Author: Veronica Schanoes
Released: March 2nd, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

Burning Girls and Other Stories is a collection of short stories written by the one and only Veronica Schanoes. This is a powerful and compelling collection, and it does not pull punches when it comes to text or subtext.

Here you’ll find short stories that are a variety of genres, some of which will defy individual categorization. All of them contain fierce and determined women – women who have been sent to the corners of their society in hopes of being forgotten.

Included within Burning Girls and Other Stories you’ll find thirteen stories, including: Among the Thorns, How to Bring Someone Back from the Dead, Alice: A Fantasia, Phosphorus, Ballroom Blitz, Serpents, Emma Goldman Takes Tea with the Baba Yaga, Rats, Lost in the Supermarket, Swimming, Lily Glass, The Revenant, and Burning Girls.

Among the Thorns
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Among the Thorns is a short story about a mother goddess and a young girl. It carries many heavy yet powerful messages, including the violence that stemmed from antisemitism and how damaging it was to the families impacted.

“A man will confess to anything when he is being tortured.”

This is one of those stories that cuts to the core and is a powerful beginning to this collection. Here, Veronica Schanoes makes it clear that she has a message to get out there, and she is not going to be ignored.

How to Bring Someone Back from the Dead
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
If you’re looking for a novel that will hit you right in the feels, it is How to Bring Someone Back from the Dead. This one reads like a blend between a fairy tale and a cautionary tale (though frequently, there’s already a very little distinction between the two).

“It hurts to come back from the dead. And it hurts to bring someone back from the dead.”

Part of me wishes that How to Bring Someone Back from the Dead was just a little bit longer. It had so much potential, and I think it would have carried more weight if we had just a bit more time to delve deeper.

Alice: A Fantasia
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The title is naturally going to make readers think that this is some sort of retelling of Alice in Wonderland. And perhaps it is. This is the tale of a young girl named Alice, and how it was never herself she saw when she is looking into a reflection. She saw someone else.

“All her life, Alice has looked in the mirror and seen somebody else instead of herself.”

Alice: A Fantasia ended up making me think a lot more than I had anticipated. On the one hand, I adore that. On the other hand, I have so many questions about this story.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Set in 19th century London, Phosphorus tells the story of Lucy the matchgirl. Like many girls who worked to make matches in that era, her life was not a great one. She wound up getting Phossy Jaw and would have been in a dire situation if not for her grandmother.

“It begins with a toothache. And those are not uncommon, not where you live, not when you live.”

Phosphorus hits harder because of the reality that it is set in. Yes, the conclusion is very much a being of fantasy, but the little matchgirl’s situation? That is very real and very raw. It’s an excellent read, especially for those that like a little blend of history in their fiction.

Ballroom Blitz
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Twelve boys are forever stuck in a bar. That is unless they can get the same 12 girls to dance with them every night for 101 nights straight. What would you do to gain your freedom? And how would it feel when finally attained?

“And we may have been under a curse, but I remember us always laughing.”

I sincerely think that Ballroom Blitz is my favorite short of this anthology, and part of me almost feels like it should have been placed either earlier or later in the collection as a bit of an anchor. Either way, this is a brilliant read that I would not skip out on.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Serpents is another tale that very much reads like a classic fairy tale. One girl follows a rabbit down a modern rabbit hole (the subway station); here, the story takes several interesting twists and turns.

“Will you take the path of pins or the path of needles?”

Serpents was simultaneously an interesting and confusing short story. I feel like much of the confusion was intentional, so I didn’t actually mind that all that much. In fact, I enjoyed the overall feel of this story.

Emma Goldman Takes Tea with the Baba Yaga
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Here is the tale of one very real historical figure and her meeting with a being of legend. Emma Goldman, the famous anarchist, is about to have tea with the one and only Baba Yaga.

“Truth can be told in any number of ways. It’s all a matter of emphasis. Of voice. I have not lied about anything yet.”

To say that I was surprised when I saw this title would be an understatement. I was even more surprised to see that it really did include both Emma Goldman and the Baba Yaga. It was odd yet delightful in equal measure.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Warnings: Drug addiction
Young Lily was born in pain. Her whole life was pain, and there was little she could do to escape it. Except, one day, she found a release in heroin, and that was all she needed.

“Just so, you will know these characters by their story. As with all fairy tales, even new ones, you may well recognize the story.”

This is a story that is going to hit hard. Especially for anyone that has ever known somebody with drug addiction or even a friend/family member who has suffered from chronic pain. It hurts to see, and thus this hurts to read.

Lost in the Supermarket
Rating: ⋆
Warnings: Animal mutilation/death
I’m going to be honest with you here; I don’t really know what this one is all about. I had to stop once the graphic animal mutilations appeared, so I only have this quote to help give you an idea of what is in store.

“All I have now are the fluorescent lights, and I think they’re the reason that I vanished in the first place.”

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Swimming is a strange yet fascinating tale of one family and their obsession to constantly build bigger and better. Sorry, but that is arguably the best summary I have for you.

“It is not a house at all, but a beast, a god, a toad-like Moloch-Baal squatting in the heart of Brooklyn devouring the offerings of labor, love, and material bounty my future in-laws offer up.”

This short kind of reminded me of the Winchester house – the one that kept getting added onto since a fortune told the owner she would die when the house was complete. This was an interesting but oddly dark read, in some ways, with a lot of room for interpretation.

Lily Glass
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Two girls are both searching for what it means to be themselves and somehow find each other in the process.

“It wasn’t even the first time she had lost one name and gained another.”

Lily Girls is a beautiful and poetic tale, one that hits home in so many different ways. Additionally, there’s something so lyrical about the way this tale unfolds.

The Revenant
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Warning: Child Abuse
A little girl seeks a safe place or person to speak to about the traumas of her life. This is not a read for everyone.

“The revenant is the one who comes back. The revenant comes back from the dead, but home is gone, so all that is left is haunting.”

Once again, Schanoes words hit hard and hit home with this tale, which speaks of trauma, abuse, and the need to find different ways to cope with it all.

Burning Girls
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Burning Girls is the longest story in this collection, as well as being the namesake. It is also the final story in this collection.
Deborah has always known who and what she is. She’s the granddaughter of the village witch, and she had hoped to someday carry on in that tradition. However, it was just the skills of her grandmother she inherited, but her secrets as well. Those secrets follow Deborah and her sister all the way to America and very nearly cost them everything.

“In America, they don’t let you burn. My mother told me that.”

I can see why Burning Girls became the namesake for this anthology, and not just because of the length itself. This was a delightful story to read, and I swear it was gone in the blink of an eye; that’s how into the narrative I was. Out of all the stories here, I recommend this one the most.

Thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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