Book Review: Say Her Name (James Dawson)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 287

Release Date: June 5th 2014

Summary (From Goodreads):

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.


The lovely Jim at YA Yeah Yeah gave me a copy of this book, so thank you very much to him 🙂

As I write this Say Her Name is being considered for the YA Book Prize (massive good luck to James and all at #TeamSayHerName) and it’s easy to see why.

According to the Acknowledgements, Dawson wrote Say Her Name after being challenged to write the scariest contemporary YA horror and I think he’s been successful. Say Her Name takes the well known legend of Bloody Mary and uses it as the basis for a very creepy, fast paced horror story.

I’ve done it myself before: way back in primary school a friend and I stood in the lower years bathroom and nervously giggled our way through three ‘Bloody Mary’s before leaving scared. If I’d only know it was supposed to be said five times, things may have turned out differently…

The boarding school setting was suitable creepy, but it was Mary herself who caused the most scares, and rightly so. The drip drip drip that indicated her presence immediately set me on edge, and that soon turned to a claustrophobic feeling as Mary began to manifest in mirrors and other reflective surfaces. The best ghosts are the ones that you can’t escape.  

The dreams that haunted Bobbie and Caine were very creepy but I was glad when Naya got her fair share of the awfulness – I’d started to feel she was getting off lightly, but I think she got the worst of it in the end!

The mystery pieced together very nicely and wasn’t so obvious that you could guess it, or so far-fetched you couldn’t believe it. I did begin to feel a little annoyed with all the ‘we must help Mary, she’s just a troubled lost soul stuff’ but the ending more than made up for that – I don’t want to give anything away but there was a satisfying twist at the end, just as I’ve come to expect from modern horror.

If I were to criticise, I’d say the plot reminded me a little too much of The Ring film: the wet ghost, the time limit and investigation and such. But I still raced through it and, as this is my first James Dawson book, I’m looking forward to reading more from him.

My Verdict:

If you enjoyed this, you might also like The Haunting of Sunshine Girl (Paige McKenzie)

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