Find it on bookdepository here.
People who live in the UK might have heard about the YA Book Prize: it's an award for the best UK young adult book and the winner will be announced in March. However, there is already a shortlist with 10 of the best UK YA books of 2014. Up until March, I will read each of these books (one a week) and post a review - I'm reading the books in the same order as the YA Book Prize twitter account is.
I. Do. Not. Like. Horror. And not just what normal people consider horror, but everything that has a semi-dark scene in it in which someone is scared is horror for me. So I was really really really not looking forward to reading Say Her Name for my YA book prize challenge. Like I almost didn't want to do this challenge, because I saw that this book was part of it, but I sucked it up like a big girl and did it anyway. And I must admit that Say Her Name wasn't as scary as I expected - though I had to read it during the day and away from any mirrors.
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 and Mary
As a horror-hater, I must admit that I know close to nothing about Bloody Mary. I knew you had to say her name a certain amount of times and something would happen, but I never knew that it took five days or that she appears in reflective surfaces such as mirrors - that's some scary stuff.
However, this book was readable for me because Bobbie is such a great narrator. Since Bobbie knows next to nothing about Bloody Mary, you don't need to know anything about it to follow the story. And Bobbie is very realistic, which is a tough thing to do in a story that borderlines on completely crazy.
Even though I don't believe in Bloody Mary, Bobbie's journey to believing and realizing what is happening is slow enough that any reader would start believing it too. She's just like you and me, until she says those words and things go from kinda weird to completely utterly weird. Bobbie doesn't just suddenly get scared or tries to scare everyone - she looks for logical reasons and I think everyone would do that.
Of course closely tied to that is James Dawson's writing and it was amazing. I read the book in one day because A. I just couldn't put it down and B. It was so damn easy to read. The sentences are the perfect length, the dialogue is realistic, the teenagers use words that I actually hear teenagers use and he combined all of that with the most original YA topic I have seen in the last few years. I've never read any other books by James Dawson, but they are on my TBR-list after this one.
The only thing I think might put some readers off is the fact that it's honestly not that scary of a book. I mean, I could read it and my threshold for horror is incredibly low. It spooked me and it definitely made me avoid mirrors for a day, but that was about it. If you are really looking for a super scary horror story, try Stephen King. But if you are looking for some scary elements in a great YA story, Say Her Name is your book.
So surprisingly, I really enjoyed this book. It was an incredible original story with a great narrator and amazing writing - so it will be my first five stars of the year!