RED RIDING HOOD
Paranormal Young Adult
Received from publisher for review
Violet has always been the quieter sister, the one who keeps to herself and stays comfortably in the shadow of dynamic, older Lucie. She lives in a quiet town, but once a month a selected family has to make a sacrifice to the Wolf so that they may live the remainder of the month in peace.
Violet's quiet, albeit unusual, world is changed entirely with the return of her childhood friend Peter and the gruesome death of her sister. While the town is in an uproar over the death of one of its own, Violet finds herself increasingly attracted to Peter despite both his pauper status and her parents' announcement she is to be engaged to the blacksmith's wealthy son Henry.
When the Wolf continues attacking during the blood moon, the town entreats help of a professional werewolf slayer who informs them the werewolf is surely someone living in the village– someone among them. Violet finds herself in the midst of the chaos when the townspeople learn the Wolf can speak directly to her, her feelings for both Peter and Henry intensifying just as she is offered up as a sacrifice to end the bloodshed.
Red Riding Hood is yet another retelling of a classic story, one with a lot of intensity and violence that makes for a quick read, but it's one whose reimagining isn't quite as strong as its predecessors. With certain books, the characters are so vivid and vibrant it seems as though when we touch the pages our fingers may come in contact with cloth or skin, the individuals about whom we're reading so real there ceases to be a line dividing our world from theirs, and our lives blend together for the duration of the tale. With this story however, our skin brushes merely paper pages, our emotions skittering across the black ink without ever truly seeping in to create that valued bond, and so this book remains simply an inanimate object to us rather than an anthropomorphic entity promising us a journey we can't wait to undertake again and again.
Valerie is a difficult character to understand at times, the reasons for her preferred solitary existence never truly explained to us other than it's simply the way she is, but this small omission is highlighted by her sudden transformation into a social butterfly with the return of Peter and the sudden interest of Henry. As is so common with young adult romance lately, she finds herself instantly in love with the boy she once knew–so much so she's prepared to run away with him hours after his return and despite his ten year long absence. While instant attraction is certainly believable sometimes, even more so with an old childhood friend, the speed with which she's prepared to uproot herself and leave behind her family is highly questionable and a bit off-putting. While we certainly can see Peter's appeal, their interactions pulse with none of the tension forbidden love usually creates, and we feel only fleeting tingles now and then before they fade and we are left alone even though Valerie and Peter are still with us on the page.
There is certainly enough action and mystery in this story to offset an inexplicable romance, but the lack of concrete answers to any of our questions serves to solidify our somewhat indifferent reaction to the book in general. We close the back cover wondering if we actually care enough to look up the real ending or "bonus chapter"–something that isn't printed in the book itself but can only be found online (and wasn't available until the film's release date). With any mystery, there are going to be questions raised along the way, but with Red Riding Hood our curiosity is a heavy burden to bear, the weight of our questions constant and crushing as the gift of knowledge is never offered to lighten our load. Valerie's sister is slain and found with an unreadable note in her hand, but never do we learn what it might have said or who could have written it. The girls' grandmother clearly knows more about the Wolf than she lets on, but yet never does she reveal her thoughts on the matter. And while we have a suspect for the Wolf, we are denied the certainty of our suspicions, left with an ending where our minds are blank save for the presence of a single question mark–a symbol that adequately sums up our entire reaction to this book.
Red Riding Hood is an entertaining read despite its flaws, though it will perhaps be more successful as a film where our visual senses will no doubt be delighted and may allow us to forget some of the elements that so frustrate us in this written form.