Review: Say Her Name by Juno Dawson

3.75 out of 5 scary stars

*Edit 1/31/16 Just want to say that when this was published and reviewed, the author was James Dawson. I’d like to congratulate Juno Dawson on her transition, and acknowledge that in the future, this book will be published under her name – Juno Dawson.

For some reason, we allow a certain amount of cheese in a horror movie. It’s the one place where the school-girl-bitch-queen reigns supreme. There was some cheese in this, but I was glad most of it was on the outside of the book pie that was this book. As a matter of fact, this is probably the best YA horror book I’ve read. I fell right into it and recognized the school girl bitchiness as a sort of nod to that which has gone before – like from Carrie or other horror novels and movies. It had just the right amount of teenage angst, too.

This is the origin story for the Bloody Mary myth. Now where I grew up, you went in the bathroom, turned off the lights and said her name three times and she would appear. In this one, candles were required and you said the name 5 times. I’ve always thought it comes from the story of Mary Queen of Scots and her reign against the Protestants, or because of her many miscarriages. Who knows where all this started, as it’s incredibly convoluted. I mean why would an English queen show up at an American slumber party? But in this story, they are saying it all started at Piper Hall, a school for girls. The book also picks and chooses from the history of Bloody Mary, as urbanlegends/about.com has various names listed for Mary, and one is Worthington, like in the book. It was believed she committed suicide at Piper, for any number of reasons, and if you say her name five times in front of a mirror she would appear.

It’s Halloween, what better time to sneak out and hang out with your besties and boys, right? Only Bobbie isn’t really a drinker, or a popular girl, or prone to hanging out with boys. She gave up a night of reading to spend time with her best friend, Naya and the Elites, comprised of the head girl of the school, Grace, and her cadre of mean girls. There’s a bottle going around and two boys from town. Sadie starts to tell them the story of Bloody Mary, a dare is made, prompting Naya to say it’s ridiculous, one of the boys, Caine, insists he isn’t afraid and Bobbie, in defense of her friend and thinking the whole thing is a joke, joins in. Ah, boarding school.

Well, turns out there might be something to this Bloody Mary business. Things get really scarey. While Bobbie is in the shower, someone writes “5 days” in the steam on the mirror. Then strange things happen to all three of the participants on the same day at the same time. Something too coincidental to be ignored. Bobbie is the first one to figure out that something is going on. She finds out there have been several Piper School students who have disappeared. She is determined to find out who Mary is, how she’s connected to the school, and most importantly, how to stop her.

Naya is her best friend and roommate, and I felt she got a little pushed aside so Bobbie could run around with the gorgeous Caine. Now they are in school, and it’s hard to get off campus, so I partially understood, but still. It would have been cool to have a pair of girl detectives instead of a romance. I thought it was well done, though. Bobbie is a pretty girl, but wears glasses and is a bit of a fringe member of the Uppers. She’s also not had any attention from boys before. I thought her first experiences were cool, as was Caine’s characterization. He was a jock but he was really smart and not at all your typical dudebro.

I have to mention something that is a spoiler. I’m not going to totally ruin the ending for you but if you are a seasoned horror reader/watcher of movies, I think you need to know what I’m going to impart. I really loved the story up until the end and that’s becaaauusee…..

Warning – thar be spoilerators ahead!

Now, everyone is calling this original. In some ways, I thought it was, but…. this pretty much is just like the movie The Ring. So to old school horror fans, it’s not original. Bobbie’s gotta figure out what the deal is with the ghost -what does it want? It also gives clues, and the ending/solving of the problem/situation that occurs as a result of the ending is exactly the same as The Ring.

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