Saturday 18 September 2010

Review: Scarlett Dedd by Cathy Brett

You're dead Scarlett...

Previously a poor taste jibe from school frenemies, now a statement of fact.

Scarlett is absolutely mortified (in more ways than one) to discover that she's accidentally killed herself while trying to get out of a school trip. Even worse, she's taken her entire family with her.

Life as a ghost is pretty dull - if only some of her friends were dead too...

It is rare that I will read a book that I am unsure about before I even pick it up, however I had picked up such a great buzz from other reviewers about Cathy Brett's previous book, Ember Fury, that when Headline asked me if I would like a copy I quickly said yes. Why was I unsure about Scarlett Dedd? Well this is not the sort of book I would normally read and as far as this blog is concerned I just wasn't sure whether it would appeal to boys or not. However, my concerns were unfounded - this definitely has boy appeal, although I would like to add that it may not appeal to all boys. If you love non-stop action and death-defying adventure in your stories then this probably is not the book for you. If instead (or as well) like stories that are quirky, laugh-out-loud funny, and also somewhat morbid in a Tim Burton / Addams Family kind of way, with plenty of Shaun of the Dead style comedy gore, then this may just be the book for you. It will also have an appeal to many reluctant readers as it is a fascinating hybrid of novel, graphic novel and blog entires, with pretty much some form of image on almost every double-page spread, all drawn by the author herself.

Cathy Brett has been, amongst many other things, a fashion designer, a theatrical scenic artist and these days a lecturer in design, and she claims that she "unashamedly plunders her students' lives for sensational storylines and characters". As a teacher myself I can well believe this - some of the things that go on in this book are simply too good to be totally fictional - and whatsmore, despite the ghostly subject of the book, the teenagers in the story are more real than most you will find in YA literature these days. These characters actually mess around like real-life teenagers, often being exceedingly immature and doing all kinds of hilarious things. If you're like me, your teenage years are not (ok... for me it is a case of were not) made up of foiling dastardly plots to take over the world, or having to act mature incredibly quickly in order to cope with whatever awful event has been thrown at them by the author. This is such a breath of fresh air.

The characters in this book are almost the stand-out element of the book. I say almost because how could anything be ranked above Ms Brett's fantastic illustrations. Here are a few as a taster:

How cool are they?

All in all this book came as an incredibly big surprise to me (I really am a typical boy when it comes to books and films - I just love a good shoot 'em up or an Indiana Jones style adventure moment). Like I said, I am not sure all action-loving boys will like it as much as I did but I hope they will give it a try. If not, then at least love it for the illustrations - it's worth buying just to look at the pictures. My thanks go to Headline for sending me a copy to review. Actually, they sent me more that one copy so watch this space for a book giveaway coming very soon (maybe even tomorrow if I have the time).