“The creepier the better.”
– Scarlett Dedd by Cathy Brett
Brett has already made a name for herself in England with illustrated novels for young readers like Ember Fury and Verity Fibbs; Scarlett Dedd is her first American release.
The story revolves around Scarlet “Scar” Dedd, the weird girl whose weird family lives in that weird house at the end of the street. “Being the eldest child of the oddest family in the street was no fun at all. Like watching a festering blackhead become an inevitable pimple…” She’s pale, poor, introverted, and not at all comfortable in her own skin. So days before an extended school trip – six nights in a youth hostel – Scar decides to make herself sick so she can stay home and not have to deal with others seeing her “baggy, grey underwear.”
She quickly researches indigenous mushrooms and finds some that should make her mildly nauseous. She cooks up some mushroom risotto, eats a bunch, goes to sleep – and dies. So does her entire family, who ate the leftovers when she was napping.
When her small group of friends – goths and techi-nerds with names like Rip, Taz, and Psycho – return from the school trip to find Scar and the rest of her family dead, they decide to visit her (now haunted) house on a dare. They soon make Scar’s basement the headquarters for their gang but matters are complicated when Scar desperately tries to connect (by attempting to kill them!) and two bumbling burglars try to rob the place.
Young readers who enjoy their literary fare dark and disgusting will cherish this gruesome little gem of a ghost story. Brett’s illustrations are stylish and spellbinding (examples are below); the actual layout of the book is highly unconventional, with text at times undulating, curling in circles, exploding, etc.
Another fascinating element of this story is the utilization of social media as not only an integral part of the narrative but also an ingenious promotional tool. In the book, Scar has her own blog (http://scardeparted.blogspot.com), a site that is actually live and being used as a savvy promotional tool.
Although the book is aimed at young readers, those young at heart (like myself) will enjoy it too!
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.
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