Hollow Pike – James Dawson

I have always been a little wary of young adult fiction, well since I was a young adult, and reading it as a grown up. I admit I loved Harry Potter but I did start that series when it came out in my late teens and so of course I carried on with the series, how could I not. I have dabbled in ‘Twilight’ to mixed results (I like the films more) and just didn’t get ‘The Hunger Games’. Odd then that I thought James Dawson’s debut novel ‘Hollow Pike’ was a bit of a corker, yet I think it’s because it is everything I would have liked in a young adult novel when I was one (and my sister, who is fourteen, love it – more on that later) and never got. I will explain…

Indigo Books, paperback, 2012, young adult fiction, 320 pages, kindly sent by the publishers

Lis London (brilliant lead name for a YA character) leaves her home in Wales for the small Yorkshire town of Hollow Pike after the bullying that she has endured at school simply becomes too much and hopes for a new start. However new starts are always tricky, will you make any new friends, will you end up in the right crowd, could history repeat itself? Prior to moving Lis has been having nightmares of someone trying to kill her each night, before she arrives at Hollow Pike she believes that this could be due to stress yet why is it when she goes through the local woods (which have a history of witchcraft) everything looks so familiar? Throw in the murder of one of her fellow school mates and soon it looks like Lis is set to be the killer’s next target.

I will admit that on paper the idea of ‘Hollow Pike’ as a story does look slightly like your average supernatural teen thriller fare, yet there is so much more to it when you read it. First of all there is Lis, she literally (cliché alert) walks off the page. The story of how she was bullied at school and then tries so hard to fit in with the right, and then the delightfully wrong, crowd will without a doubt have you looking back at your own school days. I remember having a Laura Rigg (popular, beautiful but ultimately a complete bullying power controlling bitch) or three in my school, I also remember the slightly kooky, or some people might say odd, group which you kind of wanted to be a part of and where also rather scared by and so all these characters came vividly to life. I thought that fact that he made three of the lead characters gay and lesbian was also a very brave thing to do and something I don’t think is really written about for that age group, brilliantly its very much part of who the characters are yet it isn’t the only thing that defines them – like life.

Secondly there is the style and nature of the book. From the outside (cover and blurb) this book looks set to be a witch-fest, it is far more clever than that. I actually think at its heart ‘Hollow Pike’ is a crime novel, with hints of witchcraft thrown in for good measure, where the moral of the story is friendship. The book has the fast paced thrilling nature of a good crime though never at the expense of the writing or the atmosphere, which I really liked. Oh and I couldn’t guess who the killer or killers were and was second guessing all the way to the denouement.

Thirdly, as an adult reading this, I loved the sense of nostalgia it had. I am of the generation (as is James Dawson it would seem) that had the Spice Girls blasting on the radio, watched ‘The Craft’, ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Scream’ at the cinema and devoured Point Horror novels all weekend (I didn’t even care that they regurgitated the same plot over and over). This combines all those things, except switches regurgitated ideas for originality, and creates a book and a world in young adult fiction that is familiar yet new. I was charmed by it.

I did have the odd wobble or two with ‘Hollow Pike’ I will admit. Occasionally bits of it felt overly familiar and I think I was expecting something with more witchcraft. But I am a thirty year old critiquing a book that isn’t for me, and I really enjoyed it overall, so I will leave you with the thoughts of my little sister Miriam (who joined me and Gavin on The Readers Book Club to discuss it – and do listen as she is brilliant on it) who said, to paraphrase, that…

‘Hollow Pike’ was actually all the more clever for what James Dawson does with the witchcraft elements and  that I shouldn’t expect the obvious – which told me frankly. She found it scary (I did a few times but didn’t want to admit it – oops), thrilling, realistic, original and different from other books in its field.. At fourteen she is the idea reader for this book and she LOVED it. I am not its target market and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so rave reviews from both of us really.

Who else had read ‘Hollow Pike’ and what did you think of it? What are your thoughts on adults reading young adult fiction? If you like them yourself then which would you recommend, apart from ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Hunger Games’?


Filed under James Dawson, Orion Publishing, Review, Young Adult Fiction

15 responses to “Hollow Pike – James Dawson

  1. It reminded me a little of Heathers and it scared me a little too. I used to overlook YA books but have really come to enjoy them. There’s a whole range of writing styles and issues out there. I thoroughly recommend Tanya Byrne’s Heart-Shaped Bruise as a thriller that appeals to adults as well. I also loved Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (which has a hideous UK cover but do look past that).

    • I actually have Heart-Shaped Bruise which I plan on reading very soon and then sending to my 14 year old sister who devours books and loved Hollow Pike. She is always telling me I should read this book or that book, Patrick Ness is one of her favourites so I am going to try his series next year I think, and his adult book too.

  2. It sounds really good – I read YA fiction often. I loved Hunger Games and hated Twilight, I’ve enjoyed Mary Hoffman’s YA books, especially the Stravaganza books.
    Ahh, Point Horrors! Me and my sister had loads of them!

    • Do you know what since I read this book I have been looking here and there and everywhere for Point Horrors (well all the charity shops I know)and have not been able to find a one. I would love to read one now as an adult!

  3. Books are books! I’m probably too old for “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” but I’d be happy to re-read Stewart and Riddell’s “The Curse of the Gloamglozer” and the entire series that spun off from it and the Steampunky Larklight trilogy by Reeve.

  4. literary travels and explorationskatrina

    The Knife of Never Letting Go and the rest of the books that follow it are great, as is Shiobhan Dowd.

  5. I love reading YA fiction. I think sometimes adult fiction can get too bogged down in reality. I read – primarily – to escape and YA fiction can often do this better than adult. Authors can let their imaginations run a little more freely, because I think kids / teens are more accepting and don’t question why a midget lives in a mushroom with a giant hedgehog (for example) as much as adults might. As mentioned above, The Knife of Never Letting Go is good, and the Fallen series by Kate Lauren (which is primarily aimed at girls, I will admit) is also good, although the third book is a bit of a miss in my eyes.Sophie Mckenzie’s Blood Ties is an interesting take on genetics and ‘designer babies’ and more recently I have loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

    • Your comment about reality made me think of Gavin who I co-host The Readers Podcast with, he has the exact same thoughts on adult fiction.

      Is the Daughter of Smoke and Bone a YA book? I thought that was an adult book for some reason.

  6. AstroSkyeTaz

    I loved Hollow Pike and loved the discussion. Miriam’s comments were, I thought, very insightful – after hearing her thoughts I’m now going to buy the book for my 13 yr old niece for Christmas.
    Oh, I had forgotten the Stravaganza series – I’d second those as great YA reading for everyone!

    • I was really proud of Miriam coming on the show and saying what she did. Very proud of my little sister who I think is going to be a wonderful young woman only too soon. She will be thrilled when I tell her your thoughts on, erm, her thoughts lol.

  7. Pingback: The Point Horror Book Club | Savidge Reads

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