We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire Summary and Reviews

We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire

by Joy McCullough

We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire by Joy McCullough X
We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire by Joy McCullough
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Book Summary

From the author of the acclaimed Blood Water Paint, a new contemporary YA novel in prose and verse about a girl struggling with guilt and a desire for revenge after her sister's rapist escapes with no prison time.

Em Morales's older sister was raped by another student after a frat party. A jury eventually found the rapist guilty on all counts--a remarkable verdict that Em felt more than a little responsible for, since she was her sister's strongest advocate on social media during the trial. Her passion and outspokenness helped dissuade the DA from settling for a plea deal. Em's family would have real justice.

But the victory is short-lived. In a matter of minutes, justice vanishes as the judge turns the Morales family's world upside down again by sentencing the rapist to no prison time. While her family is stunned, Em is literally sick with rage and guilt. To make matters worse, a news clip of her saying that the sentence makes her want to learn "how to use a sword" goes viral.

From this low point, Em must find a new reason to go on and help her family heal, and she finds it in the unlikely form of the story of a fifteenth-century French noblewoman, Marguerite de Bressieux, who is legendary as an avenging knight for rape victims.

We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire is a searing and nuanced portrait of a young woman torn between a persistent desire for revenge and a burning need for hope.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In a moving back-and-forth between Marguerite's verse story and Em's prose recounting, McCullough questions chivalric codes of the Middle Ages and today's meet-cute expectations. Though extended metaphor use can feel labored, McCullough emphatically confronts the toll that sexual violence takes and deftly questions who gets to control history's narrative." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"McCullough has created an absorbing firecracker of a young woman who bleeds rage and grief as she wrestles with transcending not only her sister's trauma, but society's general malevolence toward women. The effect is engrossing, especially as Marguerite's and Em's stories become intertwined...Intense, unrelenting, and inspiring." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Marianne's narration is especially compelling as she deals with her sister's rape and shows how it impacts the entire family. A well-written book on an important topic that will appeal to a mature and discerning reader." - School Library Journal

"What is art if not a sword? With We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire, Joy McCullough wields and strikes her sharp-edged, finely honed blade. A fierce beauty." - Elana K. Arnold, Printz Honoree and National Book Award Finalist

This information about We Are the Ashes, We Are the Fire shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Joy McCullough

Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her family. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Her debut novel, Blood Water Paint, was longlisted for the National Book Award and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award.

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