AUTHOR: Alison Cherry
PUBLICATION DATE: Oct.8, 2013
GENRE: realistic fiction, allegory
GIVE IT TO: HS girls, adult women
SUMMARY: Founded as a sanctuary for redheads, Scarletville boasts a redhead population around 75%. Though non-reds live there, natural redheads get special privileges and carry a higher social status in their community. Felicity is a redhead who seems to have it all: beauty, brains, a gorgeous boyfriend, and an upcoming pageant that’s hers to lose. But all that is thrown into jeopardy when she finds a note in her locker that reads: “I know your secret.”
REVIEW: One part Stepford Wives and one part Mean Girls, Red is a fresh, funny, creative story that highlights society’s prejudices. While much of the story takes place at the local high school, the prejudice and discrimination against non-reds heavily infiltrates the entire community. Hair dye is not permitted, and the local colorist has to hide her salon with a series of clandestine elevators, secret passcodes, and strategically-located broom closets. These people are serious about their hair!
When I first started reading, I thought this was going to be more allegory or satirical, written mainly to comment on our society’s prejudices and obsession with beauty. On some levels, it is just that, but Red is so much more. Aside from the obvious moral statement, the story has real heart and depth. Readers will care about Felicity and empathize with her need to keep her secret safe. This is her life, and while it may seem inconsequential to us, exposing her secret really is a big deal to Felicity.
Red is so easy to get into that I read it in one sitting. Felicity is a dynamic character who starts out weak and scared and grows strong and self-assured as the story progresses. I loved Felicity’s new romantic interest and was sorry Felicity didn’t see the light earlier in the story–I looked forward to the scenes with that particular boy in them.
Felicity’s two best friends are also clearly drawn and integral to the story. And Felicity’s mother! What a piece of work she is!
If you like watching Toddlers & Tiaras or are just interested in the pageant lifestyle in general, you should definitely check this book out. I am not into watching pageants myself, but I don’t think Red is offensive to pageants in any way. Felicity sees the pageant as a way to get out of her life, to leave Scarletville forever, and I think for many young women, pageants really help them carve out a new life for themselves. I was glad to see that the pageant contestants were mostly nice to each other, save for the one “strawbie” among them, who they mostly just ignored.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Short, fun, and surprisingly deep, Red is an engrossing read that many teen girls (and adult women) will enjoy.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don’t have it, and I am on the fence about getting it. The only content I worry about is the two make-out scenes (see content notes below). Still thinking about this one.
THEMES: bullying, popularity, friendship, mothers/daughters, being yourself, standing up for yourself and others, obsession with appearance
- Overall: 5/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: mild; a few “bit**” and “ass”
- Sexuality: high; two make-out scenes where boy sneaks into girl’s room via window, kissing without shirts on, discussion of loss of virginity (does not happen)
- Violence: mild; girls are mean to each other
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; one very minor character is stoned at the Prom, gossip about someone who sells pot
- Social issues: blackmail, cross-dressing male classmate, bullying