Title: Say her name
Review:Say Her Name is James Dawson’s modern YA take on the infamous legend of Bloody Mary. As you’d expect it’s creepy and mysterious but to my surprise it was also incredibly touching as James brings Mary to life not only as a ghost but as a character with a tragic past. Say Her Name offers something different in YA and I enjoyed it so much that I think that James Dawson should branch out and write more modern YA stories for all of the famous ghosts and ghouls!
The story centres around Bobbie, Caine and Naya who call upon Bloody Mary on Halloween night at Bobbie’s historic boarding school. Legend has it that they have five days until Mary comes for them and as dark and disturbing occurrences begin to happen to all three characters they realize that there may be a sinister truth to the old myth. But is Mary the evil essence that people believe her to be? Or, like all ghosts, is there unfinished business and a story to the girl dripping in blood?
Bobbie and her friends have only five days to find out.Did Say Her Name scare me? No, but then I watched movies like The Exorcist, Scream (all of them!) and The Sixth Sense when I was 12-13. (I’m more likely to be scared by horror movies now than I was then!). So, it didn’t scare me, but it was incredibly enjoyable for someone looking forward to reading horror and it was deliciously eerie. One of my favourite horror movies of all time is The Ring and if you enjoyed that, you’ll love Say Her Name. James Dawson brings remnants of The Ring into his story, but with a brilliantly modern twist – a contemporary boarding school setting.
Bobbie and Naya, best friends and roommates, are students at Piper’s Hall School for Young Ladies, an English boarding school. There’s a legend that’s been passed around the school for generations that claims if you say ‘Bloody Mary’ five times in front of a candlelit mirror, ‘Mary’ will come. Bobbie and Naya, alongside fellow teenagers Sadie and Caine (a cute boy who Bobbie wants to impress), dare each other to perform the ritual, so they do it. It’s just a joke, right? But in five days, they find out just what happens when you Say Her Name.
Piper’s Hall, being a boarding school, is the perfect setting for most YA novels if you ask me, but YA horror in particular. It’s enough to peak my interest, but Bloody Mary is a fabulous… ghost zombie? Think The Returned, but much more nightmarish. She’ll make you never want to have a shower ever again. I cannot say much because the best part is not knowing what is going to happen next, but parts of Say Her Name were seriously chilling to think about, and Bloody Mary has a tragic backstory that makes everything seem real. You don’t often get to see the human side of the supernatural in horror, but this makes her even more terrifying. Mary doesn’t just ‘get’ people for the sake of it and I loved getting to know her before she became Bloody Mary, while equally hoping that she would stay away from Bobbie, Naya and Caine, who are realistic teenage characters – they’re afraid and don’t believe they can ‘defeat’ Mary – that you want to keep safe.
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…
“Bobbie wrapped the towel around her soaking body and listened carefully. The room was thick with steam and there was a constant drip, drip, drip from the shower, but the room was deserted. ‘Hmmm,’ Bobbie said, stepping out of the shower stall and onto the cool tiles. ‘That’s weird.’ Perhaps she’d grazed her hand on the towel, but it really had felt like hair.
As the extractor fan creaked and groaned, removing the excess steam, Bobbie saw the mirror clearly. Someone had written in the condensation on the glass, little streams of water running like veins from the words.
It didn’t make any sense to Bobbie. The two words simply read: 5 DAYS”
James Dawson really goes all out in creating the perfect YA horror story. There’s a gothic boarding school, dripping taps, Halloween, a graveyard and an asylum altogether creating the atmosphere and backdrop for Mary’s story. I’m not one who’s easily scared when it comes to supernatural horror and although overall I found Say Her Name more creepy than scary I definitely had my moments with this one. Bridget’s story in particular really creeped me out.
Hands down my favourite thing about this book was Mary and her backstory. I loved how James not only brought her ghost but also the girl she was to life. I found this take on Mary’s legend really interesting and there was a real sense of mystery to Mary’s story that held me captivated. Mary was actually my favourite character in the book one minute I’d be terrified of her and the next feel really sorry for her.
The end of the book was also fantastic. The whole plot came together in a really clever way and the last page left me with this uneasy sense of foreboding which was the perfect note to end the book on. Overall Say Her Name is perfect for anyone who used to stay up way too late pouring over Goosebumps and will introduce a new generation to the thrills and chills of horror.
Say Her Name is an eerily awesome introduction to YA horror, with a frighteningly believable story and fantastic ending. You’ll want to talk about what you’ve just read, so it was the perfect book club book. I adore the cover, designed by Jet Purdie, and so purchased a finished copy at the Say Her Name book launch last month, where we ate creepy cake and got to see James Dawson dressed up as a Bloody Mary. Don’t be scared – pick it up (but definitely do not say her name).
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