Under My Skin by James Dawson

Under My Skin

Written by James Dawson

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

March 2015 Book of the Month A thoughtfully provocative and chillingly eerie tale that seizes your attention from the very first page and refuses to let go until the last. 17 year old Sally, quiet and careful good girl meets Molly Sue, who is perceptive, boisterous and extremely powerful. The author has written satisfyingly convincing characters, the friendship between Sally, Stan and Jennie feels very realistic, with squabbling skipping hand in hand with trust and love. Molly Sue is a wonderfully seductive character, she is fascinating and bewitching, just a teensy bit likeable and as you get to her know her, extremely intimidating. The suspense builds slowly, then like a wildfire it snaps and crackles out of control through to the brilliantly surprising ending. This is a fabulously gripping tale, proving that you can find strength in the most unlikely places... you just have to know where to look. ~ Liz Robinson

A Piece of Passion from Emma Matthewson, Editor-at-Large Wow, James Dawson, Queen of Teen, has done it again. With Under My Skin he has written a chilling, thrilling horror story about a tattoo that comes alive, in fact, a tattoo that decides to take over Sally, the girl she is tattooed onto... brrr ... she really does get under Sally's skin in more ways than one... Anybody who loved Say Her Name (if you don't know it, take a look!) will love this. Maybe read it in daylight? Depends how strong you are feeling, I suppose ... And of course it depends on whether you have a tattoo yourself. That would change how you read this book. Yes, it would. Definitely.

James Dawson was awarded the accolade of “Queen of Teen” – voted for by the public and awarded by The Book People.


Under My Skin by James Dawson

Meet Molly Sue. Once she's under your skin there's no getting rid of her...

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feathers is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally's about as shy and retiring as they come - but all that's about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour - and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling.

Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back - hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head - or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue's. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl - in fact, she's mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue...and before long she's going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody 'under your skin'.


Praise for Say Her Name

“…a clever chiller, with a neat twist.” The Telegraph

“Bedwettingly scary, with pitch-perfect writing” Metro

“Spine chilling and witty” New Magazine

Praise for This Book is Gay

“Filling an important gap in non-fiction publishing is this frank, funny and very welcome exploration of gender and sexuality.” The Bookseller

“Funny, wise and utterly pragmatic this is a brilliant readable and informative book... which could not only help teens become more at ease in their own skin as they work out the details of who they are, but could change your entire school culture, for the better.” Teach Secondary

About the Author

James Dawson

For eight years, James Dawson was a teacher specialising in Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE). His main remit was ensuring that these subjects were taught to a high standard across several schools. He collaborated on projects involving bullying, sex education, drugs and alcohol education and family diversity.

He now writes full-time and lives in London.

His debut, best-selling YA novel Hollow Pike was nominated for the prestigious Queen of Teen prize, and was followed by publication of the YA thriller Cruel Summer in 2013.

When he's not writing books to scare teenagers in a variety of different ways, James is busy listening to pop music and watching Doctor Who and horror movies.

© CleverPrime Photography

Here is James talking about his book, Being a Boy

A Q&A with James about Say Her Name...

What inspired this book in particular? People told me that Hollow Pike was scary and I wasn’t even trying so I thought it would be fun to write a book where I was actually trying to terrify the reader.

What was the toughest part to write? When writing horror, I found you can’t rely on ‘jumps’ or loud noises the way they do in films. The fear has to come from a more psychological place; it has to get under your skin. The only way I knew it’d scare readers was if I scared myself. While writing Say Her Name I was plagued by Mary-related nightmares.

What was the most exciting thing about writing this book? (No spoilers please!) I loved adding to that oral tradition of ghost stories. What’s really fun is when I go into schools and ask who’s heard of Bloody Mary, all the hands go up and everyone has their own version. Say Her Name is just my retelling of a dark fairy tale really.

What advice would you give to writers struggling with a second (or third, fourth or fifth!) book? This isn’t my advice, it’s Patrick Ness’s, but he just told me to write the book you want to write. If you start worrying about the expectations of your readers or editors there won’t be any joy on the page. I adored writing Say Her Name, I hope it shows.

How do you come up with ideas for all of your books? It’s almost always something that intrigued me when I was young. That period from about ten-twenty years-old, I just soaked up pop culture like a sponge and now it’s finding it’s way out in my writing.

Has the way you write changed since your previous book? Do you/did you do anything differently? With my second novel, Cruel Summer, I felt like I proved myself as a writer, that I wasn’t a one-hit wonder so to speak. That meant there was no pressure on Say Her Name to be anything other than hugely enjoyable and hugely scary. Of all my novels, this was the easiest to write. I’m also hugely proud of Bobbie in that she’s my first creation who isn’t, at least in part, based on someone I knew.

Have you got an idea for your next book? Or would you like to write something completely different? My next book is already done! I write fast – in fact I’ve done two! Such is publishing! My next book is another horror, but tonally VERY different from Say Her Name. It’ll be out in 2015, all being well, and it’s a much stranger, more psychological horror. Before that there will be my second non-fiction title, This Book Is Gay, a guide to identity, sex and relationships for young LGBT people.

We’d like to update readers on what you’ve been doing since your previous book came was published – would you mind filling us in a little? Clearly doing lots of writing! Since Cruel Summer came out, I’ve also become a Stonewall Schools Role Model, a role I’m very proud of. I’ve also been enjoying my stint as a ‘sexpert’ alongside the release of Being A Boy.

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Book Info


320 pages
Interest Age: From 13


James Dawson
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Hot Key Books

Publication date

5th March 2015




Publisher Profile

Hot Key Books is an imprint of Hot Key

logo Hot Key Books, a division of Bonnier Publishing, publish stand out, quality fiction, for 9 – 19 year olds, print and digital that people like to talk about. If you are looking for something a little bit different from your books, something a little bit special then Hot Key Books may well have just what you want.

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