Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Book review: Say Her Name by James Dawson


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 5 June 2014 by Hot Key Books, 240 pages.

Description: 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...

Rating:



It's Hallowe'en night when Bobbie is hanging out with her friends (although for some the term friend is used loosely) at her posh boarding school, Piper's Hall. Teenagers like to scare each other, especially on All Hallows' Eve, and before Bobbie realises it they have moved on from the lame ghost stories they were telling onto a much scarier subject: Bloody Mary.

Everyone has heard the age-old tale that if you say her name five times in front of a mirror that she will come for you, but there is very little evidence that those who have completed the task have actually disappeared. That is, one of the girls reveals, because the story originated at their school. So the only people who will be taken by the ghost are those who chant her name into a mirror at Piper's Hall itself.

Bobbie obviously doesn't believe the story, but before she knows it she, her best friend Naya and local boy Caine are roped into a dare to say Mary's name five times in front of the bathroom mirror. While they don't notice anything different straight away, sinister things soon start happening to them and they discover that they have only five days left from the moment they said her name until she will come for them and they will disappear, one by one...

Just like James Dawson's previous novel Cruel Summer, his new one very much reminded me of the Point Horror novels I devoured as a kid - except better and creepier. Especially Say Her Name was TOTALLY creepy. And like an idiot I couldn't stop reading it once I had started so I ended up finishing the novel just before going to bed. Needless to say that wasn't the cleverest idea I've ever had.

Besides the proper scare-factor, what I also really loved was that it was impossible to predict how it would end. Authors so often follow a similar style or formula in their writing, but that doesn't seem the case with Dawson. And the storyline wasn't predictable in itself either, making it an exciting read until the very end. I do believe this is the kind of novel the term 'page-turner' is coined for, as the storyline was so engrossing and exciting (especially when it was nearing its conclusion) that I couldn't turn the pages quick enough to satisfy my curiosity!

Another aspect of the novel that made this truly stand out to me were the fun pop culture references sprinkled throughout. They not only make the story contemporary and very relatable for today's teens, but it also adds a sense of fun, which an otherwise tense read such as this one really benefited from. And the characters were diverse and interesting, there was even a romance story thrown in there - ticking all the boxes of a good YA read.

Dawson is very much a modern, British R.L. Stine. His novels are updated for a contemporary audience of course, but they have the same sense of thrill and excitement (and a healthy dose of gore) that I used to relish in Stine's novels. I do find Dawson's stories less repetitive or predictable, better written and a little bit more grown-up, so it's fair to say that he is not only the new Stine, but an improved version at that.

I may not fall within the target age-bracket for Say Her Name, but my nostalgia for the Point Horror books, combined with the well-plotted story, make this one of my favourite reads of the year thus far. In fact, Dawson's fresh contemporary voice and engaging storytelling are quickly making him one of my favourite authors all-together!

Note to the author: I remember there were new Point Horror titles in the shops every few months so, James, it'd be brilliant if you could write new books at a similar regularity. Your creepy tales are keeping your readers up at night, so I believe it's only fair that you don't get any sleep either and spend your time much more wisely; writing lots and lots of novels.

You can purchase a copy of the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com or your own preferred bookshop.



Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with him at:

Website: www.jamesdawsonbooks.com

Twitter: @_jamesdawson

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jamesdawsonbooks


Many thanks to the publisher for a proof copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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