Author & Illustrator: Cathy Brett
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: August 14, 2012 (currently available in the UK)
Genre: YA, Middle Grades, Humor, Horror, Illustrated Novel
How I Got It: from NetGalley for review
When I started this book I knew right away it wasn't for me, but I could also think of several students who would like it. So I started the book over and read it as a librarian: did it have a good story, was it well written, was there an audience for it, etc. And I have to say, while it might not appeal to me, Scarlett Dedd is a cool book.
Scarlett is shy but has a group of friends that she really values. They make horror movies on the weekends and she's becoming their star (her super pale complexion easily lends itself to zombie roles). Despite the place she's found with them, Scarlett isn't as comfortable with other kids her age. Her father is a struggling writer and her mother and equally struggling artist, so the family doesn't have a lot of money. There's an overnight class trip coming up and Scarlett is so afraid of the other girls seeing her in her third hand underwear. Her parents want her to go so Scarlett decides that the only way to get out of the trip is to get sick. She finds some toadstools in the park that she mistakenly identifies as ones that will cause vomiting. (If only she had read the other page and noticed an exact match for her toadstools causes death.) She whips up some mushroom risotto and ends up poisoning her whole family. Scarlett tries to adapt to her afterlife, but she's not doing as good a job as her parents and brother. Sure, she can do cool things now like walk through walls, and she can type and text ( She's also met some other ghosts online in an chat room), but it's not the same as before. She's so lonely and she's a bit jealous of her still living friends. Scarlett gets it into her head, with a bit of help from a bad influence, that things would be so much better if her friends were dead too!
|Scarlett and her family (before they were ghosts)|
Scarlett Dedd was a mix of gross-out humor, some slap stick, a very clever premise, and a variety characters - one of the most interesting horror books I've read. You feel a bit sorry for her, not only was she going through the awkward teen years, but now she's stuck in them as a lonely ghost. Readers will realize some things that should seem obvious to Scarlett, but that is part of Brett's story. Scarlett is so caught up in her death, loneliness, and subsequent plans to knock off her friends that she's not paying attention to her new world. We see what she cannot, but that doesn't make the story predictable, it's simply another way the reader interacts with the story. Brett's illustrations add some very cool elements to the story and give readers a lot to look at. It might seem a bit much that a scrapbook style page pops up in the middle of the narrative, pictures scatter or warp the text, and the book at times has to be rotated to be read. But all of these things actually work very well with the part of the story they pop up in. Reading Scarlett Dedd was a fun visual experience.
The story is very British, not that it's a bad thing, but might take a bit of time for other readers to get the hang of the slang and insults. There is nothing that hinders understanding, it just takes some time to get used to. The kids' insults are very creative and long and seemed a bit harsh to me but I know that a lot of my older students would find them very funny.
Visually Scarlett Dedd was a fantastic book. The mix of gross-out humor and horror will definitely appeal to readers who enjoy the style. Scarlett Dedd was a neat story of teenage angst, loneliness, and finding acceptance within yourself. It never got too mopey, there was always some action or humor tossed in to lighten the mood. This is a fun one to pick up from the library.