27 May 2015

Review #229: Under My Skin by James Dawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Tattoos have a power and magic all their own. They decorate the body but they also enhance the soul.”

----Michelle Delio

James Dawson, a British YA writer, pens his new novel, Under My Skin which revolves around the life of a 17 year old girl whose life drastically changes when she gets a tattoo of a southern American pin-up girl called, Molly Sue. From being unpopular to being popular, from being hiding behind the closet to coming out of it, this is her story and watch how a simple cute tattoo can transform her something beautiful yet dangerous.

PS: This book might give you second thoughts if you are planning to get a tattoo this summer!


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

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather 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 parlor - 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 nightmarish 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 realizes 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'.

Sally Feathers, a regular 17 year old high school teenager, who life is not so dramatic, not even her popularity in school is something to brag about, other than her grades, her best friends, Stan and Jennie and her favorite horror/cult TV series, Satanville. But Sally has a wish, she wishes to be a wild spoiled brat, who disobeys her parents, luckily, one day while running an errand, she is chased by a homeless man, and to protect herself from him, she hides inside a tattoo parlor where the sexy owner named, Rosita, asks her to get a tattoo for free. Excited and intrigued by the idea, Sally gets one on her lower back of a southern American pin-up girl called, Molly Sue. And on the very first night, Sally figures out that Molly Sue has a voice and she can make Sally into a popular and beautiful diva in her school, but everything comes with a price, even Molly Sue's promises. Will Sally obey Molly Sue blindly? Will Sally use her wit to stop Molly Sue from dominating her life?

Before Under My Skin, I never read any of James Dawson's books, and after reading this book, my POV, in general, has changes and now I regard, British YA quite highly. Although, Dawson tried to feature an Americanized high school kind of setting in this book, yet still, I loved this story which is scary and thoroughly compelling.

The writing style of this author is fabulous, he really knows how to get into the minds of his readers through his story. The narrative style is catchy and he have successfully portrayed the voice of a typical 17 year old teenager and a pin-up girl with an actual southern American accent. And also he knows how to install fear into his readers' minds via his characters. The pace of the book is quite fast, since from the very first page, the author pulls his readers into a loop through Sally's misadventures and when Molly Sue comes into the picture there's no looking back.

The characters felt very American instead of giving us an English feel with their demeanor. Apart from that, the author have drawn them inspired from our everyday characters that we happen to see them in our school or among our friends circle. Sally is someone who is very easy to contemplate with, I mean, it's very obvious that every obedience girl longs to be a wild woman someday, but the way the author have brought out Sally through Molly Sue's voice is something really extraordinary to read about. Sally is one of the most strongest YA heroine that I read about in quite a while. She is strong and weak both at the same time, and the way she handles Molly Sue will appeal to a lot of teenagers.

Her best friends, doesn't play a larger role in the story although they have an important presence in the story. I wish there was bit of a back story to let us contemplate with Stan and Jennie, who happens to be in an abusive relationship. Molly Sue, the second protagonist, is vividly portrayed into the story and her charming soothing southern voice and her gusto not only scares us but also makes us fall in love with her.

There are quite a lot of teenage drama/issues mentioned in the book, like cyber bulling, abusive relationship, typical bitching, jealousy and perfection, which are layered into the story quite brilliantly. Moreover, regular teenage friendships, watching creepy tele-shows, crushing over someone, these were evident in the book. There is also a bit of teenage romance who is bit mushy and predictable.

This is a very creepy and dangerous story which I'm pretty sure will take the readers on a roller-coaster ride filled with fear and danger. The whole book kept me engaged till the very end and what can I say about that climax, I totally didn't see that coming, and this
erratic climax completely turned the story into some edgy and terrifying.

Verdict: Do grab a copy of this book now since it's a must-read and a terrific YA book.

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Hot Key Books for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book. 

Author Info:
Raised in West Yorkshire, James eventually moved to Brighton where he wrote for local papers and magazines whilst working as a primary school teacher.

In 2011, James left teaching to write full-time and now lives in London.

Hollow Pike is his first novel for young adults.

Visit him here 

Book Purchase Links:


  1. It's funny to think a small thing like a tattoo leads her onto this journey! I can imagine a lot of character development happening here as she changes. Personally though, I am not a fan of tattoos.

  2. Thanks a lot for stopping by! :-)

  3. This sort of reminds me of the Xfiles episode Never Again in which a tattoo like this drives a guy crazy. It was an amazing episode! this sounds like a good book too!

  4. Thanks a lot for stopping by! :-)


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