12 March 2012
I'm not a 15-year-old girl. While reading Hollow Pike, however, I tried to get into the mindset of a female adolescent, as that was the only way I could give the book a fair review. This was more than a little scary, as I had witnessed Sonny Crockett going deep undercover in the original TV series of Miami Vice, then being unable to return to his true self. What if the same thing happened to me? How would a teen girl's personality trapped in the body of a big, hairy Scotsman manifest itself? Well, if Hollow Pike is accurate, I'd accompany every verb with an adverb, I'd describe possible things as impossible (impossible eyes, impossibly long legs, and so on), I'd consider people my best friends two days after meeting them, and I'd be forever doomed to exclaim, "OMG!" when encountering anything at all. I took the risk, though. Embracing my inner teenage girl, I dived headlong into the OMG-fest.
Aimed primarily at teenage girls, Hollow Pike is a coming-of-age story. The main character, fifteen-year-old Lis London, moves from Wales to northern England in order to escape a campaign of bullying at school. The proverbial fish out of water in her new surroundings, Lis becomes plagued by recurring nightmares in which her face is held beneath the surface of a forest stream. OMG! Nightmares! She meets three new friends - Kitty, Delilah and Jack - who are part of the so-uncool-they-must-be-cool crowd. OMG! BFF! Lis discovers that Delilah and Kitty are lesbian lovers. OMG! Teenage lesbos! The ultimate outsiders! And if you're thinking things couldn't get any more nonconformist, you'd be wrong...Jack's sexuality is ambiguous. OMG! A homosexual, bisexual or possibly asexual boy! What is this Hollow Pike place? A modern-day Sodom in rural England? Being more traditional in her sexual predilections, Lis falls for former-fat-kid-turned-rugby-player Danny. OMG! Romance! Lis's flirtations with Danny don't go unnoticed by the beautiful and popular Laura, who has her own designs on him. Laura's bitchiness towards Lis drives the new girl further into the comfortable solace of her new friends. For a joke one afternoon, they plot Laura's murder. OMFG! Pretend ritualistic killing! Lis hears rumours that witches were once killed in Hollow Pike's woods. In a local charity shop, she finds an old book that confirms the town's dark past. OMG! Witchery and sacrifice! Right here in Hollow Pike! Lis lures Laura into Hollow Pike copse, where Kitty, Delilah and Jack are hiding, dressed in hooded-monk robes. Their plan to scare the bejeesus out of Laura works well. She flees screaming into the depths of the woods, where she is killed for real. OMFG! Actual murder! Wracked by guilt over leading Laura into the woods, Lis soon realises that she has more to worry about: she may be next on the killer's list. To give away too much more of the plot would spoil any surprises. The events that follow Laura's death involve schoolteachers with shadowy secrets, ancient sects driven by religious dogma, eccentric old budgie-keeping witches and...of course...teenage lesbians! OMG! PMPWE! (Peeing My Pants with Excitement.)
So let's ask the important questions to determine the book's literary worth. Do we first meet the heroine in her ordinary world, then travel with her on a journey into new places and experiences? Yes, and the author does an excellent job of this. Does the story communicate that there's more to life than having a boyfriend (or girlfriend, if you happen to be a teenage lesbian)? Yes, but not convincingly. Does the author describe the subject matter (witchcraft, secret sects, ritual killing) with an adeptness that shows knowledge of those topics? No, not even close. Does the main character learn the importance of facing her fears (rather than running away from them, as she did at the beginning of the book)? Yes, and this seems to be the central theme of the novel; an admirable theme it is too. Is there an overriding moral to the tale? From what I can gather, it's either 'lesbians have more fun' or 'trust your inner voice and have courage in the face of adversity'.
Hollow Pike is a decent story with a wee bit of originality. If the author had edited out 95% of the book's adverbs, I might have awarded it four stars. Being bombarded by adverb after adverb is not only irritating, but also a sure sign of lazy writing. Constructive criticism from a stickler: choosing a strong verb removes the need for an adverb. Peppering a story with adverbs reduces its readability. All things considered, I'd give Hollow Pike 3.5 stars if Amazon allowed half points.