PHBC: MOTHER’S HELPER BY A BATES

Posted by James Dawson on July 13, 2014

!!d7nnYw!mM~$(KGrHqYOKnUEw89OpVZ3BMRq3YG6gg~~_35What’s It All About?

Becky Collier, hurting from her boyfriend’s betrayal with her former bestie, accepts a job as a live in nanny on a remote island. Something is afoot though and Becky quickly realises this is no summer in paradise.

Something’s Afoot?

You betchya. Mrs Nelson is awfully suspicious, practically forcing Becky to hide out in the woods. Then the phone calls start…

Scary Phonecalls?

No. Just really annoying ones, potentially about PPI claims. It’s not as crap as it sounds though. Becky has to try work out what’s going on with little baby Devon and his twitchy mother AND suss out local forest prowler Cleve – is he curly haired friend or foe?

The Girl

As I mentioned last time, Mother’s Helper was the first Point Horror I ever read and *something* got me hooked. On second read it could well be Becky. Given that we’ve had some pretty shoddy female leads, Becky is wonderfully capable and down to earth.

The evidence:

1. ‘Actually, I’ve never needed rescuing my whole life…In fact, I’m the one who rescues everyone else.’

2. She’s fantastic at childcare. Her subtle undermining of Mrs Nelson is both funny and skilled.

3. It’s Becky who plots out the escape from the island with the fake baby – ingenious.

I’m not sure about the hair you can sit on though. That can’t be hygienic. I’m just picturing the last two inches of her hair matted with leaves and bits of chewing gum, not to mention toilet seat faecal matter. I mean, does she sometimes get poop on her hair? ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT.

The Love Interest

This is the first Point Horror to present a compelling hint of genuine and understated lesbian affection. Just kidding! Love interest Cleve is a wholesome all-american sailor/wood lurker who lives near the forest cabin.

I actually quite liked Cleve. When he and Becky go on dates (once Mrs Nelson lets Becky out), he’s quite sweet. I like the bread sharing exchange: the one who tears the bread doesn’t get to choose which bit they eat, and I enjoyed Cleve’s made-up Becky story in which she’s an heiress on the run. The sudden brooding moments are a tedious red herring but we’ve met a lot LOT worse*

*Chuck from The Babysitter flashback. *shudder*

imagesDialogue Disasters

Mrs Nelson’s dialogue veers towards bonkers: ‘I wasn’t brought up to publicly discuss private things!’ but *just* stays this side of acceptable. Even Devon’s baby chat isn’t awful.

With this in mind, I shall dedicate this whole section to the GRACEFUL WHALE EARRINGS. I mean whut?

Body Count: 0 (boooo!)

Some Mild Peril?

Mother’s Helper has a very different, slightly more mature feel to previous episodes. In fact, the whole thing feels very nineties thriller – think The Hand That Rocks The Cradle or Single White Female. The scares, as such, are classier – no creepy masks or guts in letterboxes. The mutilated dolls left in the cabin are the only clue we’re even in a Point Horror.

By far the most effective moment is when Mrs Nelson catches Becky in her locked bedroom. Point Horror could have used more high-tension moments like these.

Is It Any Good?

Yes. Despite not a lot actually happening, a sense of something lurking just in the woods is enough to keep you reading. Is it surprising that Mrs Nelson is a certified fruit loop? No, she’s act madder than a shithouse rat throughout. Trying to figure out precisely what’s up with her, though, is quite compelling. The fact that she stole Devon is a pretty neat twist though, one which I’d forgotten.

And I really think Bates deserves praise for creating a ‘strong female character’ in Becky, and a kind which we don’t see very often: a girl who is strong and capable without needing to be Buffy. The ending felt particularly compassionate, and wasn’t what I was expecting.

perfumeNext month we get a whiff of evil as we visit perhaps the most unusual Point Horror, THE PERFUME BY CAROLINE B COONEY.

Over to you:

1. Which is better – this or The Babysitter?

2. How did Franklin get the number for the cabin?

3. Why did Mrs Nelson bother to hire Becky? Isn’t this the least likely thing you’d do in her situation?

4. What does Mrs Nelson hope to achieve by pushing the sheriff off the cliffs?

5. Will Becky make it work with Cleve long-distance or will she be back in Jason’s clutches the day after she gets home?

 

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LGBT READING LIST

Posted by James Dawson on July 6, 2014

Thats so gay posterHello lovelies. Last Friday I was very proud to be asked to speak to young people at the Stonewall Education Conference.

In the words of Malorie Blackman:

All of our children have the right to see themselves reflected in the stories available to them. Diversity is more than just seeing yourself reflected in the world of literature, it’s about others being able to see you too. Every child should have a voice. No child should be invisible.

With this in mind, I assembled a reading list of books representing LGBT characters and/or  issues. I asked the young people to return to their schools and colleges and to audit the titles already on shelves and push librarians to consider ordering more titles.

A few people on Twitter have requested a copy of the reading list so HERE IT IS: Stonewall Education Conference 2014. It’s by no means a complete list, as new titles are being added all the time. Feel free to add to it, but a library having these titles would be a broadly inclusive. Other lists are available etc etc…

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PHBC: COLLECT CALL BY CHRISTOPHER PIKE

Posted by James Dawson on June 14, 2014

1d4d017b42a0b3a47f1cf110What’s it all about?

Janice Adams is besotted with ‘so fine’ Bobby Walker but has to compete for his affections with cheerleader Caroline Spencer. When Janice is forced to give Caroline a lift home, she realises Bobby has plans for both of them. Not good plans either. Bad plans.

Bad Plans?

Oh yes. You see, Bobby Walker is also The Black Walker – it’s like he isn’t even trying – and he’s gonna use his ‘dark sensual synthesiser’ mixtape to kill both Janice and Caroline.

The Girls

Janice is unlike any Point Horror girl we’ve ever met – she’s the Daria of the horror world and has run out of shits to give. Pike, as we should have expected, nails the teenage experience with lines like ‘her lungs were still virgin, along with the rest of her’ and ‘that may be the reason he doesn’t want to go out with you? Because you’re a slut?’ Although Janice isn’t likeable as such, she’s certainly believable.

Caroline is a little more standard Point Horror. She’s blond, she’s pretty…and kinda stupid…although she redeems herself somewhat in the end with the aforementioned mixtape and a shovel.

I'm the Black Walker, babeThe Guy 

Leather jacket wearing Bobby Walker is unfortunately reminiscent of Dream Date’s Heath. Still, he drives the ladies crazy with his tight, faded jeans. Bobby is a terrible, terrible douche like that guy you knew at university who thought he was the only person who only understood the Manic Street Preachers and knew exactly where Richie is hiding.

Also he doesn’t buy the popcorn when he takes Caroline to the cinema. AWK.

Dialogue Disasters

All Bobby. All cringe. ‘You got it sister.’

‘He laughed and said he like his women cold.’ WHAT? GROSS.

‘I love the full moon,’ he breathed. ‘It brings out the best in me.’

Although Caroline almost gives away the farm on the first date: ‘It’s you that’s going in the hole!’

Special mention to Bobby’s song: ‘Give me the knife and I’ll cut out your eyes.’ OOOOH SHOCKING.

Body Count: 2

Did the best friend do it? No.

Some Mild Peril

Collect Call is genuinely creepy. SPOILERS….the crux of the story revolves around Caroline’s apparent death in a fiery deathtrap car crash (we can only PRAY Belinda from April Fools wasn’t around to see it). As Janice flees the scene, she starts to receive voicemail messages from Caroline and this is where things get really creepy.

Even worse, Janice soon realises something is amiss, and the scene where she finds a body bag marked ‘Janice Adams’ is truly scary. The second half is perhaps less chilling as Caroline takes over the plot.

Is it any good?

It really is. Our Godfather of teen horror doesn’t let us down, I just wish it was longer, although there’s something to be said for brevity. Janice, the first morally dubious character we’ve really encountered (she initially leaves Caroline to die), I wish we could have more like her. Clearly Pike was allowed to get away with things the author PH authors weren’t. Whatever it is, he just has it.

Even if Bobby is naff, you get the feeling that Pike KNOWS he a poser (and potentially a reflection of some of the goth lords of pain he was probably meeting during the 90s at events) and he more than gets his comeuppance at the end…’I didn’t even get to be on MTV,’ Bobby laments before dying.

POINT HORROR BOOK CLUB BONUS ROUND!

I think we need to talk about WHERE THE DEER ARE by Caroline B Cooney. Holy shit. TERRIFYING. I honestly think the Ring 2 stole the concept. I have NOT A CLUE what’s going on (something about environmentalism…and a forest cellar full of baby deer?) but the bit where the horrid leg opens the bathroom door. OH LORDY.

!!d7nnYw!mM~$(KGrHqYOKnUEw89OpVZ3BMRq3YG6gg~~_35Over to you:

Write the second verse of The Black Walker.

Did you read any other tales of terror? Which did you rate?

Outside of PH, what was your favourite Christopher Pike novel?

Next month we explore the book that got me hooked: MOTHER’S HELPER BY A BATES.

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PHBC: APRIL FOOLS BY RICHIE TANKERSLEY CUSICK

Posted by James Dawson on May 13, 2014

9780590112918What’s it about?

On their way home from an April Fools Party (who DOESN’T have one of them every year? They’re TOTALLY a thing!), Belinda, Frank and Hildy witness/cause a fiery deathtrap of a car accident. As Belinda watches the other car’s inhabitants burn to a crisp she sees a shady figure watching her. They’ve been seen seeing. Before long, someone is sending Belinda creepy messages to let her know she’s not off the hook.

Creepy Messages?

Yeah! Weird smelling dolls are left in her mailbox; calendars covered in blood; cars following her around; people watching at her bedroom window.

Who could it be?

Well, this is where it gets complicated. In a highly coincidental twist, Belinda is hired to tutor a young man who has just survived a fiery deathtrap of a car accident. Adam, hunky in a psychotic sort of way, seems to have Belinda’s number. Or how about his frosty stepmother or the mysterious British butler, Cobbs?

dalek-destinyThe Girl

Belinda Swanson, while not as punchable as our last RTC heroine, Martha, is, I’m afraid TSTL. Yes TOO STUPID TO LIVE. Within about one chapter, Belinda has figured out Adam may well have been in the crash SHE CAUSED yet she keeps going back to his house of her own volition. TIP: JUST DON’T GO THERE. And yet she does, chapter after chapter, mainly to kiki with Cobbs for half an hour, go to Adam’s room for about a minute and then flee in tears. It’s exhausting.

Far more exciting is veiled Alexis Carrington-esque Mrs Thorne, Adam’s stepmother. You can count how many shits this gold digger gives on one finger. Just the one, for herself. Sadly, the best character sashays away after about three chapters.

A final word on Hildy’s SILVERY BRAIDS. I’ve tried really hard to imagine what this must look like, or what week of the 90s they might have been popular, but I’m really struggling. Even Belinda admits ‘No-one else in the world has hair like that.’ I’m literally baffled. SILVERY BRAIDS.

The Love Interest

Well Frank joins The Babysitter’s Chuck as the most repellent characters in the Point Horror world, so it’s a good job Belinda has both Adam and his half-brother Noel to lust after.

Adam is BAD BROTHER with his scars and brooding while blond Noel is GOOD BROTHER. For the first time in PHBC history, things even get a little racy…

‘His lips moved gently down her neck…his arms went around her, turning her to him, and as her body pressed against his, she could feel his heartbeat, as rapid as her own….Belinda tried to pull back, and his eyes lowered to the lace at her breast.’

BAN THIS SICK FILTH.

Dialogue Disasters

‘Honey, you’re a natural with sick people.’

‘Your accent of course…and you’re very stiff.’ Ooh matron! The Cobbs character is possibly the most racist depiction of a British person ever commitment to page. He might as well serve fish and chips out of his bowler hat.

‘I like to watch you. You look nice in this soft light.’ Is that a read, Noel?

‘You’re looking pretty sentimental.’ Go to a mirror and practice your best sentimental look. Not easy is it?

And a whole special category goes to the HILDY SCHOOL OF BEING A FRIEND:

‘You’re acting kind of depressed…Snap out of it will you? It’s been two weeks.’

‘You better get your act together, you’re being a real bore with all this.’

‘Forget Adam, you’re the one who’s completely crazy. Totally over the edge.’

You got a friend in her.

Body Count: 2

Did the best friend do it? No, although you will want to kill the best friend.

Some Mild Peril

There are actually some scary bits. I found the whispering figure at Belinda’s bedroom window effective and the early scenes with Adam lurking in the shadows are chilling in a Hitchcock way. Depending on your views about snakes there’s also some snake action (although why the Thorne’s have a hallway full of snakes is anyone’s guess).

Is it any good?

Following on from last month’s revelation with The Yearbook, April Fools is yet more proof that 13 year old me was after something very different to 32 year old me. April Fools is archetypal Point Horror, but reading it now really was a chore.

The problem is there’s little to like: Belinda is whiny, Noel is smarmy, Adam is cray, Frank is a dick, Hildy is a grade A bitch. I found myself praying for a scene where Cobbs trapped the lot of them in the garage and left the engine running.

The final twist was neat, but hardly surprising and by that stage you’ve stopped caring. Belinda repeatedly returning to the Thorne house (over and over again) is just too stupid to forgive and the reader’s patience has been exhausted.

I hate being mean. Perhaps Belinda wouldn’t have bothered me twenty years ago. I swear we WILL find an RTC that I love. Teacher’s Pet is in my head as one of the very best.

1d4d017b42a0b3a47f1cf110Next month we pay homage to the MASTER of teen horror, CHRISTOPHER PIKE as we read his only contribution to Point Horror COLLECT CALL from 13 TALES OF HORROR.

Over to you:

1. Why, Belinda, why?

See you next month!

 

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THIS BOOK IS GAY COVER REVEAL

Posted by James Dawson on May 9, 2014

This Book Is GayHere it is! The cover for my second non-fiction title, This Book Is Gay – the ultimate guide to identity, sex, friendship and love for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, curious, straight and just plain nosy people. Featuring over a hundred testimonials from real life LGBT* people, it’s the book that would have made my fifteen year old life a million times easier.

This was such a tough cover to design. My editor, the designer and I had a grand old time trying to come up with something that encapsulated the HUGE message of love and tolerance we hope this book will convey.

We all agreed on one thing. We didn’t want a rainbow anywhere near the cover.

So, erm yeah. What happened? A U-Turn is what happened. We wanted something bold, instantaneous, eye-catching and most importantly PROUD. What could be more proud that the Pride Flag? What I love about the cover is that it’s here, it’s queer, it’s not pretending to be something it’s not. Young LGBT* people shouldn’t have to hide in the shadows so neither will this book. I love how defiant it is. It’s a book that can’t be ignored.

Huge thanks to author Ruth Warburton who was the first to notice that there were six colours in the flag and six words in the title plus my name. Ten points to House Warburton for that one!

You know I’m a mad cover geek, so one day I’ll share the legion of rejected cover directions, of which there are many. We went through slightly bondagey tape, Love Heart candies and unicorns before we finally came up with striking image above. Wait until you see the full cover – the flag wraps all the way around and has loads of gorgeous cover finishes. Phwoar.

This Book Is Gay is available from September 4th and is available to pre-order now.

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SAY HER NAME PRE-ORDER OFFER

Posted by James Dawson on May 1, 2014

IMG_2884Hiya! Y’alright? It’s that time again! Yes, SAY HER NAME comes out in precisely one month! REEEEEEE! So exciting! The early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and I want to thank any bloggers or booksellers who took the time to read the proofs.

Now to business. As a reward for being SUPERFANS I am again running a pre-order offer, which a lot of you jumped on for Cruel Summer last year.

That’s right, the lovely folks at HOT KEY BOOKS are allowing me to send SIGNED, PERSONALISED BOOKPLATES to EVERYONE who pre-orders Say Her Name. Yes, all of you! Each one will have a personal message just for you!

It’s easy. All you have to do is email (james@jamesdawsonbooks.com) or tweet me (@_jamesdawson) proof that you’ve pre-ordered Say Her Name (from anywhere) and then we’ll post you out a bookplate to stick straight into your shiny new copy of the book when it arrives – which, if you pre-order, will probably arrive on or even before the release date of June 5th.

So get ordering! If you’re TRULY a superfan and you’ve already ordered your copy, again just tweet or email me proof of your existing order. The last thing I want is for someone who’s already pre-ordered to miss out.

Keep your eyes peeled for all things Mary in the run up to release day!

James x

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THAT YALC LINE-UP

Posted by James Dawson on April 25, 2014

This July, the UK’s first YA convention will take place at London Film & Comic Con at Earl’s Court. It’s going to be MAYJAH, with the best in UK talent – Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and Robert Muchamore joining forces with the best in US talent – Rainbow Rowell and Holly Black!

Tickets for both Sat July 12th and Sun July 13th are available HERE starting from £8 for a single day.

BUT YOU’LL WANT A TICKET FOR BOTH BECAUSE LOOK:

SATURDAY SUNDAY
Malorie BlackmanHolly Bourne

Steve Cole

Sarah Crossan

Kim Curran

Frances Hardinge

Charlie Higson

Catherine Johnson

Derek Landy

Andrew Lane

Amy McCulloch

Anthony McGowan

Sarah McIntyre

Patrick Ness

Natasha Ngan

Bryony Pearce

Andy Robb

Rainbow Rowell

Lucy Saxon

Marcus Sedgwick

Darren Shan

CJ Skuse

James Smythe

Jonathan Stroud

 

Holly BlackTanya Byrne

Alexia Casale

Lucy Christopher

Cat Clarke

James Dawson

Phil Earle

Sally Gardner

Sally Green

Matt Haig

Isobel Harrop

Will Hill (I think)

Nick Lake

Sarra Manning

Julie Mayhew

Sophie McKenzie

Robert Muchamore

Non Pratt

Beth Reekles

Meg Rosoff

Holly Smale

Ruth Warburton

 

 

AWWWWW YEAH. Book now and check out the film, TV and comic book talent on offer. I can’t wait!

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EASY, BREEZY, TERRIFYING…COVERGIRL!

Posted by James Dawson on April 22, 2014

SAY-HER-NAME-JAMES-DAWSONI am totally feeling the cover for my new book, SAY HER NAME. I’m sorry, I know I should be dead humble but I think it’s GORG. In all honesty, if I hadn’t written this book, I’d buy it. I suppose that makes sense, why would an author write a book they didn’t want to read?

I’m living, breathing proof that people DO judge books by their covers. I have bought the most random books because I wanted them to be objects du art upon my shelf. I think I’ve been very lucky with all my covers actually. I’m in awe of the art department, I think they have such a cool job and I’ve also been very lucky in that at both Orion and Hot Key I’ve been asked what I’d like to see on the covers.

Getting the right cover is vital to the success of a book as first impressions count. I find the cover process fascinating so I asked Hot Key cover guru Jet Purdie to talk me through the design stages on SAY HER NAME.

 

 

1. INITIAL CONCEPT.

4sht_SOTD_Master_5-2€image002When asked what I thought the cover should look like, I just said ‘grimy, horror filmy’, using the teaser posters for The Conjuring as a reference point.

With this in mind, Jet commissioned film poster designer Andy Nicholaou to work on the campaign. You’ll know Andy’s work because he designed the famous Shaun of the Dead poster.

In the first instance, Jet and Andy devised a concept that could be taken to the whole HKB team for approval. Had they hated the initial concept, it would have been back to the drawing board (literally).

Andy borrowed some actual horror film art from The Unborn to give HKB a taster of what the final, licensed image would look like.

unborn_ver2

sayhername

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also there was a bum cheek on the front. No good.

2. DEVELOPMENT

Cover direction approved by me, my editor and the all-important sales and marketing team (who get final say because they know what booksellers are likely to go for), Jet and Andy were able to develop the idea for commercial use.

It was felt that having a character (Bobbie Rowe presumably) with her back to the reader wasn’t a winner, so it was decided that the character should look OUT at the reader instead. This approach took several directions of gradually increasing scariness.

Option A – Not that scary.

SAY HER NAME green and clean

Option B – Quite scary

nogirl

Option C -HOLY SHIT.

SAY HER NAME_bloody and scary

 

I KNOW. As cool as the last one is, it was deemed inappropriate. The scariness wasn’t actually the major deciding factor. Firstly, on a practical level, green prints very badly so this is something Jet wanted to avoid. Second of all, as scary as little Japanese ghost-girl Mary is, that’s not at all what the Mary character in SAY HER NAME actually looks like.

FINAL VERSION

IMG_2884The green was removed for better printing, the blood levels were reduced as not to worry gatekeepers. The grimy ‘Saw’ factor was kept but the colours brightened to be crisper and cleaner. Mary’s eyes were made darker to be more menacing, but not inhuman. In the end, Jet used his own bathroom sink to get the right angle!

The final consideration was the finish. By finish we mean the textures and layers used on the cover. In this instance, I was lucky because HKB found the budget to spot varnish sections of the cover. When you get your hands on the finished product, you’ll feel the mirror has a mirror like surface while the lettering is pure matte perfection. It’s a tactile finger party, make no mistake.

Job done! Reaction to the cover has been overwhelming – proof again that covers do matter. They’re a vital part of gathering excitement about a forthcoming title and the poor thing is expected to conduct a silent sales pitch to every passerby who might see it in a bookshop or library.

I really can’t thank Jet and Andy enough for their work on SAY HER NAME. We’ve already started the process for the 2015 title and we’ve set the bar really high!

The nightmare begins June 5th 2014, but you can get Mary early by PRE-ORDERING SAY HER NAME (it’s the only way to keep her at bay):

On Amazon

On Waterstones

 

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PHBC: THE YEARBOOK BY PETER LERANGIS

Posted by James Dawson on April 13, 2014

41SA3EJ197LWhat’s it all about?

High IQ boy next door David Kallas only agrees to work on the yearbook to be near his crush, Ariana. However, when he discovers a corpse at the local make-out spot, David soon finds himself balls deep in a historical mystery, a yearbook that seems to predict who will soon die and a calcium-based squid monster from Greece.

What?

This isn’t a joke. A calcium based squid monster from Greece.

Also…a BOY next door?

Yep. AND it’s told in first person. The Yearbook simply isn’t like any other entry in the Point Horror cannon. I’m not sure there were ever any other titles with a male lead. The author, Peter Lerangis is a hugely prolific author for children and young adults with some twenty titles under his belt.

I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if The Yearbook was not originally written to be part of the Point Horror range.

The Boy

David could have time travelled back (not surprising given the timey wimey elements of The Yearbook) from a current John Green era novel. He’s pleasingly nerdy without being neurotic, he’s cute (until he gets lumps all over his face) and comes with both a past and present (timey wimey) including a bereavement. It’s nothing to do with his gender (Jenny Jeffers is as well rounded), it’s all in the excellent writing.

The Yearbook is sophisticated beyond the average Point Horror novel. The insinuation of teen sex (‘Ariana was discovering heaven in a Chevy’) and multiple deaths put this in a different camp, not to mention readership. The first person perspective of David allows him more humour and more of an inner world than most Point Horror girls. He’s also allowed to joke about shitting himself.

Cyb6The Love Interest

Ariana Maas, who sounds like a Mouseketeer, is no pushover. For most of the book she’s into secretly evil Smut (with whom she has the aforementioned car sex) and sees David as a bit of a sex pest.

However, as she’s from the Nancy Drew school of running a Yearbook, she seeks out David when things get weird and they fall in love like falling asleep: slowly and then all at once.

Ariana gets bonus gross out-points for biting heartily through a tentacle until goo spurts all over her face. That David is one lucky guy. With her thick red hair, Ariana gets 90′s TV star Alicia Witt to play her.

Dialogue Disasters

By and large, the writing is excellent, so the dialogue disasters are few and far between. Even the poems…very shaky in previous Point Horror offerings – remember Funhouse – are fun.

However, special mention for every line the immortal Reggie Borden says: ‘You-know-who is pretty bugged about the biting. If you don’t speak up you could both be sacrificed, dig?’ Reader, I am not hip to his jive.

Of course, the most hideous moment comes with the revelation that ‘Mark’s’ segments of the novel aren’t from the past, but the future. OR, in fact, 2016, when we’ll all be printing HOLOGRAMS IN OUR HOMES. Wow, futuristic. Get down off your hoverboard, Mark.

Finally. ‘Smoking gash’. Tee hee.

Body Count: Numerous, both past and present, but three ‘on-screen’ deaths. And they have their bones sucked out.

Did the best friend do it? No. Not that kind of horror.

Some Mild Peril

The gross corpses could be pretty spooky, but I’m afraid a Greek squid monster isn’t VERY scary whichever way you frame it. However, The Yearbook is certainly compelling. The unraveling mystery, if anything, could have been slowed down as the revelations come thick and fast with little time to breathe.

Mr DeWaalt, a sort of warty version of Mr Schuster from Glee, is definitely the creepiest addition in a ‘hey kids, where are the cool parties?’ kind of way. I bet he’s having an affair with Liz off the yearbook staff. Or he’s gay.

Is It Any Good?

Definitely. The Yearbook has made me question EVERYTHING. At the time, 1994, if I’m right, I HATED The Yearbook with a vengeance. It was all wrong. The voice was wrong, having a boy lead was weird, having a monster was bizarre. As a thirteen year old all I wanted was teenage girls being terrorised by their best friend in a weird mask. There was a formula, a VERY SIMPLE FORMULA and The Yearbook didn’t follow it.

As an adult reader, The Yearbook is head and shoulders above most of the ones we’ve covered. While there’s way too much going on, The Yearbook feels fresh and original. David is witty and funny and well-realised.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this says, if anything, about adult and teen readers of my own books. I can only speak for myself of course, but as a 12 year old, I very much craved the regularity and predictability of series fiction, something I suspect has an enduring appeal with modern mid-grade readers and why The Yearbook isn’t remembered as fondly as say, The Babysitter.

9780590112918Next month we get seasonal with April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick. After Trick Or Treat, will Ms Cusick redeem herself?

Over to you…

1. Is the monster called Omphalos or Pytho? What’s Omphalos? I’m very confused.

2. Why does Pytho bother with an overly complicated numerical system to pick her victims?

3. WRITING TASK: Write the scene where Rachel Green (I KNOW) discovers her boyfriend has been eaten.

4. Why don’t Chief Hayes and Mr Sarro just pour the coke on Pytho and how does she survive?

5. Why is Mark such a douche?

9 comments

SO THIS HAPPENED

Posted by James Dawson on April 1, 2014

As you may have seen on Twitter today (1.4.14) I had a nasty surprise in my inbox and I wish it were an April Fool. It’s not.

So, as you know, I LOVE doing school visits and I like to think I’m quite good at them. I have testimonials from librarians in the ‘Contact’ section of my site if you’re interested. I work for First Story and Stonewall visiting secondary schools every week. I think it’s important to state I am more than qualified for the role I went for.

As you can never do too many school visits, I approached an agency that sends authors abroad as well as to UK schools. Within minutes I got this response.

Thanks for getting in touch. I have had a quick look at your web site and although not a  problem from our perspective i am afraid it is a non starter when working with the majority of international schools we work with. The BOYQUEEN reference would be a big NO NO in the UAE and Gulf region in general. Many of the international schools are extremely sensitive and culturally very wary of upsetting any section of their school community – it may not be very forward thinking but that it just the way it is in many international schools

I am afraid we will have to pass on this occasion and wish you all the best with your school visits.

As you know, #BOYQUEEN has been my tag in the run up to this year’s Queen of Teen Prize.

So my reaction went like this: At first I was shocked but not surprised. I’m not sure I’d go to the UAE even if I was offered a trip. It feels morally weird.

Then I wondered if, three years ago when I started writing full-time, I’d made a terrible mistake in being as open as I am. Had I made a terrible career choice?

And finally I thought NO. This is what homophobia does. It makes you doubt your choices, your worth, your existence.

When the dust had settled I realised there was no real reason for this agency to ‘pass’. They could have said ‘we might struggle with the UAE, but we’ll give it a go’ or ‘we’ll focus on Europe’. After talking to some other authors, one wondered if she, a Jewish author, would get the same response given that she wouldn’t be welcome in the UAE either. The more I think about it, the more this was discrimination. It is discrimination. My sexuality is being used as a reason to not give me work.

I’m looking into legal advice. Why? Because the days where I used to keep quiet and keep my head down when bullies said things to me are over. That was five years of school I’m not looking to repeat. That voice in my head is right now saying NO, NO, DON’T MAKE TROUBLE, IT MIGHT AFFECT YOUR CAREER. But if it does, that’s more discrimination and I won’t take that either.

I draw strength from the response on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you to the readers, authors and librarians who agreed this isn’t good enough.

Whereas once I would have crawled under a rock and taken it, I won’t any more. I will be your Gayzilla because I hope my readers, especially those in school can see me NOT TAKING IT ANYMORE. This is another reason I’d like to be Queen of Teen sometime. I will NOT ‘tone it down’ because it makes some small minded people uncomfortable. I’m not doing anything wrong. Nothing. Not a single thing.

I like the books I write, I love my characters and I really love getting out into schools and meeting readers. I hate that, even for a second, I doubted myself.

Once more, for those of you who have always let me be me, thank you.

 

James xxx

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