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Lis London is moving to live with her sister in Hollow Pike. She desperately wants to escape from the bullies at her old school in Wales. Haunted by creepy dreams and bad memories, she can’t wait to have a fresh start and let go of the past. But her new school has secrets of its own. Beautiful queen bee Laura rules the school with an iron fist of gossip control that brings out the horror story in everyone’s social life. Lis is torn between trying to fit in with the popular clique and her intrigue with the school “freaks”, mixed race goth punk Kitty, her free spirited girlfriend Delilah and quiet Jack. To top it all off, Lis’ dreams are getting worse, black birds keep stalking her, and she doesn’t know what to do about dreamy Danny. The school goes into lockdown after a murder most horrid…are the rumours true, does Hollow Pike have a dark past steeped in witchcraft and witch hunts?
Published in the UK by Indigo, I came across Hollow Pike on a reading list for lgbt* inclusive young adult literature. Kitty and Delilah are outcasts but their secrets not their sexuality is what set them really apart from the school. Likewise, protagonist Lis narrates her story with passion and verve, and her steely determination to make her own way whatever the consequences. What made it stand out from the crowd is the compelling writing style and intriguing story line, which is chock full of creepy twists and terrifying turns. Dawson creates a great cast of characters that reminded me of the difficulties of surviving the high school popularity contest, and finding a home with a group of friends with whom you feel you can truly be yourself. It’s like Mean Girls meets nineties teen horror film The Craft. Personally I would love a sequel to learn more about Kitty, Delilah and Jack.
The story is not without its tough moments. Lis’ friends are targeted with homophobic slurs and scorned for their alternative appearances. And at times the fighting at school takes a turn for the decidedly cruel. All of this adds to the tense atmosphere and discomfort that pervades Hollow Pike. The creeping dread of the woods nip at the heels of the reader on every page turned.
The adults are just as caught up in their own secrets, with absent families, strange locals, and teachers who see all.
Dawson is a fresh and vivid voice in the dark fantasy fiction world. His next book Cruel Summer is to be published in August 2013.
Hollow Pike is great for anyone interested in the history of witch trials and haunted English villages!