Say Her Name
June 5th 2014
Hot Key Books
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... A truly spine-chilling yet witty horror from shortlisted 'Queen of Teen' author James Dawson.
As a rule, I don't believe in ghosts. Unless it's, like, 2 in the morning and I'm trying to get to sleep and creepy noises are happening. In which case I absolutely believe in ghosts because my brain hates me and doesn't want me to get any sleep. But even though I don't believe in ghosts, as you can probably tell, they freak me out so much. That's why I have to not believe in them. Because I do not want them to be real. So, when I first heard that James Dawson was going to write a book about Bloody Mary, my first thought was 'it is going to be so good and I AM GOING TO DIE AND/OR SHIT MY PANTS'. Luckily, neither of those things happened. But it was still pretty scary. And good, obviously.
I could tell from the prologue that I was going to love this book, because it had already creeped me out in, like, the first 3 pages. And, while I usually hate scary things (scary movies are a BIG no-no for me), I love scary books. So I was all over all the creepy stuff happening. And trust me, by day five (there's a whole five day build up after you do the Bloody Mary thing) shit was getting weird. It was awesome. But I think the main point that I am trying to get across here is that it is actually quite scary, which is one of the most important thing about a horror book, really. Usually, I'll read a book which people will say is really scary and it'll just be kind of meh, which is so disappointing, and I was a teensy bit worried that the same thing would happen with this, but it is genuinely creepy. I didn't lose any sleep, but I'm definitely a bit wary and mirrors (and other reflective surfaces) because I am not about that being haunted life. My expectations for creepiness in this book were met, so that's good. But bad if you don't like scary books, I guess. But it's funny, too!
My biggest concern with Say Her Name, as with most horror things, is that I wouldn't like or be able to connect to any of the characters. This mostly comes from my thing with horror movies, seeing as a lot of the time they're based around people who just do stupid things. Like, 'hey let's go stay in that remote cabin where everybody says there's a murderer!' or 'yeah let's go stay overnight in a haunted house there's no way that could end badly' and then they all die. Like a post on Tumblr once said, horror movies must exist in a world where there are no horror movies. I can't sympathise with that. Anyway (there is a point to this rambling, I promise) I didn't need to worry. Yes, all three main characters did do the stupid thing, but really, who hasn't done Bloody Mary at least once? Apart from me obviously, but I am no fun and I refuse to do things that have even the slightest possibility of summoning an evil ghost. I was never much good at sleepovers, as I'm sure you can imagine. What I'm trying to say is that this didn't affect my opinion of the characters in the slightest, and I was genuinely frightened for them, considering they were being hounded by a vengeful spirit and all. And you know what, I like Mary too. Well, I thought she was a really good character. I don't want to be her best friend or anything because that would probably end badly. I think that the plot was really tight, and her story was really well told in such a way that I wasn't sure whether to feel sorry for her or not. I was glad that it wasn't simple.
Other good things about Say Her Name: the ending. Without going in to too much detail, I will say that it is definitely the right ending. I was a bit worried as I was reading the final few pages as I think this probably has the lowest body count of any of James's books, and I can be a bit of a bloodthirsty reader, but it did not disappoint. Also, boarding school. I said this before in my review of Murder Most Unladylike and I will say it again - boarding schools are the best settings. Especially for ghost stories. And, as I said before, it is actually funny, too. It is not *all* scary ghost action, and the balance of tone is probably one of the things that make it so good. It's atmospheric and creepy without losing it's sense of humour.
So, yeah! Say Her Name is a great, creepy ghost story that will have you hiding from your mirrors, unless you have nerves of steel. As Keris Stainton (@keris) so concisely put it on Twitter, 'scary stuff happens. It is great'.