by Alison Cherry
Expected Publishing Date: October 8, 2013
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Obtained Via: Received on Netgalley by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Format Read In: e-ARC
View at the Traffic light:
Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.
Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:
I know your secret.
Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say “strawberry blond.” Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.
Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?
The summary of this book sounds a bit preposterous, right? I mean, it’s compelling. But it takes quite a bit of suspension of disbelief to buy into the story from the very beginning. . . until you change the plot and replace all the hair stuff with weight stuff–you know, girls trying to fit it, be thin, hide their ultimate shame(maybe they’ve had surgery, or something), and it sounds much more closer to home than it first appears.
Red is. . . a very interesting book. The plot is simple: Felicity’s social reputation revolves around her keeping her strawberry blonde hair a secret, going to great lengths to appear as a natural redhead, until someone starts blackmailing her. She starts jumping through hoops, just to make sure no one learns about her secret.
It’s easier to root for Felicity. The cover gave me the impression that she might not be the, nicest, shall we say, character, but I was wrong. I have nothing against not-nice characters, but Felicity was kind and constantly in a struggle about her secret. Cherry’s characterization was really spot on. Her characters grew and adapted over the course of the novel, and everyone had motives that were well-reasoned and compelling. Even when I found myself not liking certain characters, I totally got where they were coming from. Felicity is an easy narrator to like–she’s actively sweet and goes out of her way to be nice to people. I get tired of the same old “nice and simple” narrators of YA, but while Felicity is a nice and kind person, she doesn’t feel like a stereotype. Her character traits are backed up by her actions.
The plot of Red is where things get complicated, despite the simplicity of the actual plot, because I’m just not sure how to review it. It’s rare to find a book that has such satirical elements in it, especially in YA. How do I even review said book? So I will say that this book did a good job of pointing out societal flaws that are as relevant to our world as they are to the world in which Scarletville inhabits. The complete inanity of the fact that this societal class is built around HAIR COLOR is completely played up and pointed out for all it’s worth–which is a good thing, and the thing I think really sells the idea behind the book.
On a simpler level, the plot of Red IS pretty fun. It’s typical contemporary YA about finding yourself, but the unique setting makes it seem less cliche and more adventurous than normal. Felicity struggles with a lot of things that other narrators in YA deal with, but her story never felt like a cliche to me. I really appreciated the intricacies of this book. It’s the type of book that can lead to a discussion or critical thinking if you want it to, but it can also be read for fun, without putting either choice down or hitting you over the head with it’s message(surprisingly, actually. The summary made me think everything could potentially be wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end, which it’s not).
As you can see, this myriad of potential reading’s is what left me confused when starting this review–there are just so many ways to read this book. While I think it’s a good thing, I strongly think this will not be a book for many readers. It’s the type of book you have to really be intrigued by to like or enjoy. It’s not fast-paced, it doesn’t have lyrical writing, and some of the secondary characters are, at times, quite annoying. Yet, at the same time, this book is unique and original in a genre that doesn’t always feel that way. On some level, it feels a bit ground-breaking, as cliche as that is. I don’t mean it’s the best book written in this genre, or even the best book written this year or this month, but it’s. . . Original. Completely, utterly, original. It’s the kind of book that someone, along the publishing route, KNEW they were taking a chance on and hoping it would pay off. In my opinion, it did, but I don’t expect to see this one loved as broadly as many other books.
Final Impression: When I finished this book, I knew I liked it quite a bit. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, and decided to go from there. This is not a book I would recommend to everyone, but it is well-done. It’s different, and that’s a bit scary from a reading point of view, but the way the story invites a layered reading really worked for me. It was weird at times, especially plot-wise, but it was a worthy read. 4/5 cupcakes.