Monday 21 July 2014

Review: Say Her Name by James Dawson

Roberta 'Bobbie' Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of 'Bloody Mary': say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear...But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it? 

Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror...five days...but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before...

James Dawson is single-handedly bringing the traditions and aesthetic of the teen horror and slasher films of the 80s/90s, coupled with influences from his much loved Point Horror books, into contemporary YA fiction. I really enjoyed Hollow Pike, his first book, and I am yet to read Cruel Summer (soon to be rectified), but with Say Her Name Dawson seems to have really found his groove. 

As far as the story is concerned, Say Her Name does not have the most original of plots. The Bloody Mary folklore legend (and similar concepts) has been used in a number of films and TV shows in recent years (Supernatural, Bloody Mary, Candyman, Ringu), but James Dawson imbues his story with a charm and undercurrent of humour that is more reminiscent of the Scream films, and it is these elements that make it stand out from the rest. I say 'the rest' but as far as I am aware. there are very few other writers producing YA stories like this at the moment - the majority of other horror stories for teens around at the moment lack the aforementioned charm and humour that make Say Her Name such an enjoyable read.

Lifelong fans of US slasher films and Point Horror may find some of the plot twists a little easy to guess, but that does not make the book any less enjoyable, and teens who have not yet had the joy of watching the panoply of great (and less great) teen horror movies will find there are plenty of surprises in store for them in Say Her Name. I know that James is currently juggling his fiction writing with his non-fiction writing, but I hope that there is much more of the same to come from him in the future.

My thanks go to Hot Key Books for giving me a copy of Say Her Name to read/review.


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