This Book Won't Burn

This Book Won't Burn

By Author / Illustrator

Samira Ahmed


Personal Growth

Age range(s)







Paperback / softback




From the New York Times bestselling author of Internment comes a timely and gripping social-suspense novel about book banning, activism, and standing up for what you believe in.

'Reading is dangerous because it shows us the truth. Words give us power; that's why some adults want to silence us'.  Noor Khan is the new girl at school. Moving to the tiny town of Bayberry with her mother and sister after their family life is upended, she's determined to keep her head down and make it through her final year, unnoticed.

While hiding out in her school library, Noor notices that hundreds of books are being removed from the shelves and boxed up: a new school policy banning books that parents object to. Worse, almost all the books being targeted are by queer and BIPOC authors.  Outraged, Noor and her new friends decide to read some of the banned books out loud to their classmates, to protest this new policy at school. But in Bayberry, trouble is never far behind.

Can Noor effect change by speaking up, while navigating the politics of small-town life? And can she trust the son of the school board president, who she finds herself falling for?

'Blazes with searing honesty and unflinching emotional truth' Becky Albertalli, award-winning author of Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.  'Rings with truth and hope' Joanna Ho, bestselling author of The Silence that Binds Us.



18 year old Noor's life is turned upside down when her father walks out of their Chicago home unexpectedly to start a new life in London. Distraught, her mother moves Noor and her younger sister to the tiny town of Bayberry, where Noor becomes the Muslim new girl in an almost exclusively white school. Determined to keep her head down and just make it through her final year, Noor hides out in the library. There she notices hundreds of books are being pulled from the shelves by the school board, and all the books targeted are by queer or authors of colour.

Brought up to call out injustice, Noor can't help but protest the new policy. She channels her anger into positive action: staging lunchtime banned book readings, building fREADom libraries around the town and organising banned book clubs in the evenings. Her attempts to fight the challenges are met with hate and increasing violence…

With school librarians in the US driven from their jobs, a third of UK librarians asked to censor books last year and 82% of librarians concerned about the increase in requests to remove books, This Book Won't Burn could not be more topical, more timely, or more skillfully written. This is so much more than an issue encapsulated in a story. The subplots of Noor's family break-up, her need to build new friendships and the hints at a possible romance add credibility and realism.

Noor herself leaps off the page. The first person narration, pitch-perfect dialogue and strong cast of surrounding characters mean the reader feels her outrage and growing anger by the page and fights against hate alongside her. Ahmed makes the reader think - but she also makes them care. The mix of news reports, social media posts and author interviews add to the immediacy and currency and keep the pages of this gripping social suspense story turning.

This Book Won’t Burn is a tough read but an essential one which deserves a wide audience; although it tackles huge themes of bigotry, fascism, racism, censorship and hate, it is hopeful and hugely empowering for young people themselves, showing that activism is not only possible but can make a real difference. It would make a superb, discussion-provoking class read.  

Everyone involved in the care of young people needs to read this book, but especially librarians. Ms Clayton is the librarian we all aspire to be; courageous and caring, quietly but resolutely fighting for the right of all people to read freely. Throughout This Book Won't Burn, Ahmed cleverly shows why the books they try to ban matter and a Bibliography of those challenged titles is included, as well as a list of resources to find out more about censorship and book bans. Librarians will want to read, stock and promote them all.

The concluding Author's Note also includes ways we can all fight back against the book banners. 'Pick up a book, take the journey the story invited you on, be part of the conversation.' Picking up THIS book would be a great place to start.

384 pages / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 14+


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