This was the first book I bought at YALC because I’d seen the cover through twitter, and I’m a sucker for swirly ink-blots.
Straight away the narrative voice gripped me, in a slightly disturbing way. There was something out of kilter, something left unsaid – a sense of corner-of-your-eye creepiness, that reminded me of Ishiguro’s harrowing tale, Never Let Me Go. This book also brought to mind another sneakingly unsettling narrator – Engleby by Sebastian Faulks. Oh, and there’s a touch of the crowing The Talented Mr Ripley (Patricia Highsmith) too.
So, now to the story.
This is meticulously well-plotted, with each new reveal at just the right moment, so that when the final scene happens you have to blink and immediately turn back to try to pin-point when exactly things started changing. But you can’t. Because it’s all handled with such subtlety and deftness. As a writer tackling final edits for my debut novel, I’m massively impressed (and just a tad jealous!)
Without giving too much away, Birdy is the story of a friendship between two girls, one lonely and alone, the other bubbly, bold and energetic. It’s a friendship that dramatically changes their lives, but darkens into obsession and possession.
And how it darkens!
Killer line: “I was going to have to break the news to her gently.”
Envy moments: That den. That egg chair.
Once you reach the end, it all comes together; the swirly ink-blots make beautiful sense, and you blink with surprise to see that the sun’s still out.
Because that’s the sort of book it is.
If you like this, you’ll like…
Single White Female Seeks Same, by John Lutz.
When I read the acknowledgements (am I the only writer who always does this first?) I was interested to see a mention of James Dawson (also of Hot Key) as I read this book straight after reading Dawson’s beautifully tattooed Under My Skin.
Again, bought because I couldn’t resist the gorgeous cover, and have managed to get hold of one of the freebie posters at YALC for my classroom wall. And the edges are PINK.
Under My Skin was a treat to read , just because I love Dawson’s teenage girl voice so much. He balances bitchiness, humour and horror in equal measures, and it’s very fresh and lively.
This is about a girl who gets her heart’s desire when she gets a demon tattoo – a sort of tattoo salon Doctor Faustus. I loved the make-over she gets when her tattoo possesses her, and the scenes with the school’s unholy trinity Melanora are very authentic.
This is the third Dawson I’ve read (after Say Her Name and Hollow Pike) and just as much gory fun. After seeing the author’s lively hosting of the Sex panel at YALC – clad in Daenerys Stormborn body suit and “modesty dragon” – Dawson’s writing similarly switches from serious, saucy to outrageous – but is always entertaining.
Fabulous as Daenerys
Killer line: “There was no vegetable on earth her mother couldn’t over-boil.”
Envy moments: Those boots. That Satanville hair-cut.
If you like this, you’ll like…
Needful Things by Stephen King
Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell
James Dawson: "It's easy to write as a 16 year old teenage girl. Inside I am a 16 year old teenage girl!"