Title: Charlotte Says
Author: Alex Bell
Published by: Stripes Publishing
Publication date: 7th September 2017
Pages: 352, paperback
Genre: young adult, horror, paranormal, historical
The much-anticipated prequel to the bestselling FROZEN CHARLOTTE, a Zoella Book Club title in Autumn 2016.
Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.
Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.
I remember reading Frozen Charlotte back in 2015 – it was one of the first YA horror novels I’d read, and I absolutely loved it! I was delighted to hear that a prequel was being released, and was lucky enough to receive a copy at YALC this year; I read Charlotte Says in October, and ended up reading it in one sitting. Once I’d started, I knew I would not sleep until I finished, so I kept going until the early hours of the morning.
I’ve seen a few other readers comment that they didn’t find this book overly frightening, however as the type of person who has to peek through their fingers throughout horror films, I often found myself genuinely scared. I largely attributed this to the fact that the story is quite fast paced, with various horrors occurring at regular intervals. I was kept in suspense for the entire novel, and as a result of reading this book, my fear of creepy-looking dolls has increased significantly.
This prequel answered questions I never realised I had about Frozen Charlotte, and I think that, as an origin story, it was both clever and disconcerting. At the same time, I was really pleased to see that Alex Bell created a plot that was completely unique to the first book, despite both revolving around the frozen Charlottes. It was simultaneously similar and different in all the ways that matter.
I also enjoyed the non-horror parts of the plot: all of the characters were well written, and evoked a number of feelings from me as I was reading. I felt huge amounts of sympathy towards the girls at the school, and was desperately rooting for them, and for Jemima, the entire time. At the same time, I despised Miss Grayson, the headmistress, and I think the contrast in my feelings made me enjoy the story even more.
I loved Charlotte Says even more than Frozen Charlotte, although I would recommend reading this book second, as I feel you will gain a full appreciation of the story this way. Charlotte Says is chilling all the way through, and genuinely scary on a number of occasions – Halloween has passed, but this is a read for all year round!