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…
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’?