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Say Her Name by James Dawson review

say-her-name-james-dawsonRoberta ‘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…

I’m glad I read this book outside on a sunny afternoon and not in my bed at night because it creeped the hell out of me!!! I love horror, and especially love a good old-fashioned ghost story brought back to life, which is exactly what James Dawson has done with the legend of Bloody Mary in this spine-chilling, gripping book. A lot of other bloggers rave about James Dawson, but I’ve never read any of his other books. He was nominated for this year’s Queen of Teen award, but this book is his first in the horror genre – after reading it, I’m wondering whether he’s set to become the Queen of Scream?

The premise of this book is pretty simple: in a spooky boarding school on Halloween, three teenagers take part in a dare, chanting ‘Bloody Mary’ five times while looking in the mirror. Bobbie, her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine fall about laughing hysterically immediately after the dare, but their laughter soon fades over the following five days as it becomes increasingly apparent that they have unleashed something very sinister…

I love how Dawson has taken this old familiar tale and fleshed it out, particularly the detail he has gone into with the backstory of the spirit of Bloody Mary (one very messed up ghost!). The suspense is high throughout and there is more than one jump-out-of-your-skin moment – but these aren’t cheap scares. They are all part of a pattern that Bobbie must try to make sense of if she is to unravel the mystery in time – but will she do it before the five days are up? Having this mystery at the centre of the story was what made it a real page-turner for me.

I can really see why James Dawson is such a popular writer for teenagers because from reading this I can see that he ‘gets’ them – the insecurities, the fluctuating emotions, the crushes, the intense friendships and the even more intense rivalries. As with all good horror stories, it’s the reflection of human nature that this story throws back out into the world that is truly horrifying – the marginalisation and pigeon-holing that seem to be an unavoidable part of teenaged school years. Queen of ‘The Elites’ Grace Brewer-Fay is MEAN and real-life scary – I don’t know who I’d rather meet less, her or Bloody Mary!

Bobbie is a very unassuming main character – really just an ordinary girl, not the cleverest or the prettiest, though charming in her own way. But she does have areal determination to get to the bottom of things and I think that, along with the fact that she seems the sort of girl you could easily be mates with, had me really rooting for her. And her blossoming feelings for Caine, the first boy she has ever liked, make the stakes even higher at this pivotal moment in her life.

It was a great read and I only have one complaint – I couldn’t bring myself to look in a mirror for days afterwards! I dare you to read it 🙂

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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  1. My YA Book Prize reading challenge | library4delinquents

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