YA Review: Hollow Pike by James Dawson

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 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

Hollow Pike tells the story of Lis London – victimised and bullied at her old school in Wales, she’s moved hundreds of miles to live with her grown-up sister in Yorkshire, Hollow Pike to be precise.  But when she arrives, to her horror, she recognises the place she’s seen in her dreams, or rather her nightmares.
And things only go from bad to worse once she arrives at her new school, to find the cliques and outcasts even more pronounced, and a girl called Laura Rigg ruling the school.
On top of all this, Lis is sure there’s something strange going on.  Could some of the local tales of witchcraft be true?

I really enjoyed this debut novel from former teacher (and ‘Queen of Teen’ nominee) James Dawson.  It was immediately obviously that Dawson has worked with young people, and that he’s got a really good understanding of teenage relationships – much more so than some YA authors – as the dialogue and school situations were realistic, within the context of the supernatural/paranormal genre that Hollow Pike inhabits.  

I would say that I think this book is aimed at mid-to-older teens, given the age of the main characters (Year 11, 16 years old) and some of the topics covered (relationships, drinking, a bit of light swearing), but I really think the level of that content has been well-judged and shouldn’t put off any parents thinking of buying this for their daughter.  I say daughter because it’s very rare for boys to read books with a female protagonist.  I think that’s a bit of a shame, but I also think Dawson was aware of that when he chose his main character.  Many teenage boys would drop the book in horror at the mention of a tampon on page 316!

Dawson has also made good use of his own background in Yorkshire to create a really believable setting in Hollow Pike and Fulton.  Many people may know of the Pendle witch trials, which also, in part, inspired Raven’s Gate, the first in Anthony Horowitz’s The Power of Five series.  These real historical events, along with references to the Salem witch trials via The Crucible, add to the ‘is it real, is it teenage hysteria’ mystery of the book, helping the reader to empathise with Lis and her feeling of confusion and disorientation.

I was pleased to see that Hollow Pike won’t have a sequel.  It feels like a really well-rounded narrative, and I felt happy to say goodbye to the characters at the end of the book.  However, Dawson has written a second, which, according to his website is with his editor now; it is a thriller for young adults, but won’t have a supernatural element this time.  I’m interested to see what it might be able and will definitely be keeping an eye out for a publication date.  In the mean time, I’m certainly adding Hollow Pike to my list of recommended YA fiction.

Hollow Pike is published by Indigo/Orion Children’s Books
James Dawson is on Twitter – @_jamesdawson

Kate Neilan @Magic_kitten

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