I thought this was going to be a general re-telling of a fairy tale classic, but it is actually connected to the show Once Upon A Time (I was given a different summary than the one on Goodreads which is a lot clearer about that). I wasn’t really impressed as an adult reader, and even adult fans of the show will probably be disappointed, but middle school readers might think it is just right. Three stars from me, but the reviewers at Goodreads scored just under four stars.
Red is 16 and lives with Granny in a cottage in the village, where boarding up the house and hiding during Wolfstime is a means of survival. Red help’s Granny with Granny’s baked good business, catering as well as door-to-door sales.
Red has a constant internal battle between her wild side and her strict, overprotective upbringing, and the issue of “control” as she discovers she has a hot temper when the “mean girls” push her too far. (“When we learn to control it, we needn’t fear it,” Rumpelstiltskin says in the series.) She has flashbacks to her 13th year when she received her cloak and the nickname “Red.”
She is plagued by nightmares that she doesn’t understand, but the Once Upon a Time fans will recognize them as her wolf side coming out.
Red balances the difficult times with Granny at home and the girls at school with an emerging and satisfying romance with Peter.
This book is definitely going to be most appealing to middle school readers. The conflicts are firmly middle school territory – mean girls, jealousy, disagreements with Granny. Red is angsty and impulsive. She has an irritating habit of doing the opposite of what she is told because she thinks she knows best, and that leads her to drugging Granny so she can sneak out, stealing so she doesn’t have to explain how the mean girls got the better of her, and wandering into the woods at the height of wolf season to make a deal with a strange magician. I found the pace to be a little slow, and my interest drifted as Red mostly got tormented or yelled at by Granny for a majority of the book. Peter admired her and had a knack of showing up just when she needed him most, and their slow blossoming relationship is sweet if unrelentingly G rated. I think that this book is trying to give fans of Once Upon a Time an origin story for Red, but I haven’t seen the show since the first season, and I didn’t really connect it to the show until I finished reading. Perhaps avid viewers would find this story fascinating, but I thought it was fairly mundane and dull. Through flashbacks, readers learn about how Red got her nickname and how she came to own her red riding hood. In the course of the story, readers also discover a little about Red’s parents and their deaths. I’m not sure if anyone really desperately wanted this background information because most of it can be inferred, but just in case you did – here. As an adult reader, I was underwhelmed. A lot of the story seemed very ordinary and nothing about Red really stood out as a narrative voice. The plot line is rather predictable, and the resolution is sweet enough to give you a tooth ache, but wholly unrealistic. I can’t help but think that this book is forgettable in a genre full of more memorable and distinct female fairytale protagonists. I can’t even begin to guess how much context is lost on me simply because I haven’t followed the show, but I can’t help but imagine that adult readers who look to this book because of their love of Once Upon A Time will be a little disappointed.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.