You’re dead Scarlett…Previously a poor taste jibe from school frenemies, now a statement of fact. Scarlett is absolutely mortified (in more ways than one) to discover that she’s accidentally killed herself while trying to get out of a school trip. Even worse, she’s taken her entire family with her. Life as a ghost is pretty dull – if only some of her friends were dead too… (from Goodreads)
I was very intrigued by this book. It sounded really fun and the illustrations inside were fantastic. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to my expectations and I found it a little difficult to read.
It begins well enough. Scarlett is a pretty typical teenager- self conscious, shy and completely embarrassed by her very strange parents. She’s a misfit at school and apart from her handful of Emo friends, doesn’t fit in at all. Desperate to avoid a school trip she decides to make herself ill to avoid going. Just a little sick would do, put Scarlett accidentally kills her whole family with poisonous mushrooms. So far the book is pretty funny, I liked Scarlett’s despair at her frankly bizarrely weird parents and could sympathise with her about not wanting to go on the school trip.
However, after the families death, when they become ghosts, I started to struggle with this book. I’ve never read a book with amazing illustrations like Scarlett Dedd and while they were fantastic, for me the story suffered because of them. I think this is just down to personal taste and many people will appreciate the humour of Cathy Brett’s writing. I on the other hand prefer more character development which was lacking in this book and I didn’t feel I was able to connect with any of the characters at all. The plot seemed a little jumpy and vague at times and I really wanted more than I got from it. I was also pretty disturbed by some of Scarlett’s antic’s where her friends were concerned once she is dead!
Another problem I had was with the text layout on some pages. It doesn’t stick to the usual format and there are almost blacked out pages, pages where the text goes round in circles etc. I struggled to actually read some of it so skipped these pages and they didn’t really work for me.
The book is littered with blog post written by a dead Scarlett as well as entries from a chat room for the deceased. I thought these were a very clever touch and I liked reading Scarlett’s blog which did make me giggle. Cathy Brett’s take on the afterlife is certainly unique and quirky. I can see why lots of people would love Scarlett Dedd, especially reluctant teen readers. It’s very different to anything else out there. With a ton of fantastic illustrations it isn’t as text heavy as other books and can easily be dipped in and out of and Brett’s writing is witty and fun.
I really wanted to love Scarlett Dedd but sadly it just fell a bit flat. While I appreciate the wit and genius artwork (also by Cathy Brett) in the end I concluded that this style of book just wasn’t for me.
Published in the UK by headline, September 2010. Thanks to the publishers for providing this review copy.