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Hollow Pike is a really involving and thoughtful book which teenagers (and adults who don't mind a bit of young adult fiction every now and then) will love.
The characters are strong, and the plot is pacey and involving with an air of mystery that keeps things rolling. The main plot revolves around a witch-craft theme, with a good helping of addressing more realistic issues such as bullying and settling into a new school - the kind of thing that kids worry about.
This book may not however be suitable for more sensitive younger readers - there are some more mature themes here, including violence, death, a smattering of betrayal, and some homosexuality. I personally think most kids will be strong and mature enough to handle this, but it's more a book for teenagers than kids of about 11 and under. To be fair, the themes are handled well - things aren't hidden, but neither are they gratuitous.
I think that the witchcraft side of the plot is written in an excellent way - with a hint of the old, ancient, creepy, and traditional, while still maintaining the book's relatable tone and not becoming overly-scary. The interaction between the main heroine and her bully is also quite interesting - both in a sense of the hurt caused to the victim, and a sense of pity created for the bully (who, (spoiler alert!!) gets a pretty nasty and horrible comeuppance.)
On a more superficial note, the cover really is what attracted me to this book (I know, I know, a certain criticising proverb comes to mind.) The cover on my copy is the same as the one pictured here, and I found the artwork really effective. The edges of the pages were also dyed purple (I'm sure this isn't the case for all editions, but it was for this one,) and, gimmick though it may be, it was pretty cool and made the book stand out from the crowd.
About the book
Hollow Pike is the debut novel by James Dawson. It was published by Orion Children's Books on 2nd February and the book is 416 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC for review.
Something wicked this way comes... She thought she'd be safe in the country, but you can't escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her. Lis thinks she's being paranoid - after all who would want to murder her? She doesn't believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn't believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you? Not until you're alone in the woods, after dark - and a twig snaps... Hollow Pike - where witchcraft never sleeps.
What I thought
Hollow Pike was one of those books that I got extremely excited about once I had heard about it. With its creepy, dark and scary front cover, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to know more.
This book had me at the first couple of pages. It starts off with main character Lis having incredibly bad dreams and they felt so real. I could feel everything that she was going through whilst dreaming and I could picture exactly where she was. It creeped the hell out of me mind you but I loved it nonetheless. James Dawson certainly knows how to start a book with a bang and to get his readers interested and hooked quickly.
From there, I wasn't sure what to expect from Hollow Pike. With its mix of horror, thriller and contemporary plot lines, there was something for everyone - I personally loved the complete mix. Lis has just moved to Hollow Pike from Wales so she is starting over completely. I really enjoyed the aspects of Lis meeting new people at school and trying to figure out the dynamics of people there. At this point, I wondered what the hell was going on because nothing too strange had happened and I knew it was going to! I was anxiously waiting for everything to go wrong for Lis.
The characterisation was fantastic. Lis was a likeable main character from the beginning. Having moved to live with her sister because of some terrible bullying, I could sympathise with her immediately and I didn't want her to have to go through that again. Not only that though, she was nice and funny and pretty much, a normal teenager. Somehow, Dawson has managed to make Lis extremely real - having so many of the same problems and thoughts that I had as a teenager but also made her super cool at the same time. I know I would have wanted to have a friend like her at school.
It wasn't only Lis that was great though. Secondary characters - both the good and the bad - were just as well written. I hated the mean girls of the book like you're supposed to and I loved Lis' friends. Each character had something incredibly unique to them but they also worked well together and either complemented each other or set someone else off. The chemistry between all characters involved was believable and it made me believe in the story so much more. One of my favourite characters though has to be Danny. I have a soft spot for nice guys and I could really see why Lis would like him.
As for the plot, there is a hell of a lot of mystery and for a good while, I had no real idea what the hell was going on - and this isn't a bad thing. I loved not knowing what was really happening or who/ what was behind the strange going ons. Hollow Pike has a lot of tension and I was on the edge of my seat reading waiting to find out what was going to happen and if everything would work out ok. As the synopsis and front cover of the book explains, this is about witches and I loved every little detail of this aspect. I know Dawson had some inspiration from The Craft and I could definitely see this in the writing.
Overall, Hollow Pike is a great debut and one I would highly recommend!