I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Thriller (with fantastical elements) Age Range: YA Star Rating: 3.5 stars Series: Standalone CW: assault and murder (sexually motivated), sexual and domestic abuse bullying and harassment
You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked.
And the wolf is angry.
Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
RED HOOD is a tricky book to categorise. It’s a contemporary thriller about how society treats women, focusing on the toxicity that is often found in school. However, it’s also a fantasy, as these men transform into wolves when they’re following their basest instincts.
By removing their human-shape when they attack makes the killing easier to stomach. It’s shocking when they transform back into men/boys, but it’s not like Bisou killed a person. Which is an interest psychological trick, well exploited, that raises a lot of questions about our perception of threat and humanity.
This is a deeply feminist book, but I was so glad it didn’t paint all men as toxic. Bisou’s boyfriend is such a stark contrast to the boys/men in the woods harming girls, and there are other healthy examples of male characters. The book shows both side of girl cliques too, from the gossipy to the amazing close knit group of friends Bisou forms.
It’s wrapped up in a quasi-Little Red Riding Hood retelling, though it’s really not that obvious without the title. I think inspired is a better word, because it’s more basic ideas or characters present than specific story beats and progression. The pacing is very good, and the concept is hooking.
I wavered over whether to give this book 3 or 3.5 stars. While the story itself is very engaging, I struggled with the way it was written.
The book is narrated in second person, as in the synopsis above. I found this really hard to get into, and then left me feeling rather disconnected from the main character. Part of it is that I naturally rebel when a book tells me how to feel, rather than evoking it in another person and convincing me to feel the same.
Part of it is that I struggle to put myself in the characters’ place when this fourth wall has been broken. It was as if I was being told to imagine myself doing everything Bisou is – which I would never do – rather than finding similarities in a stranger and rooting for her. I was having to root for myself even though I couldn’t see myself in her.
This is not a book for those who don’t like blood. There are no holds barred on describing periods, to the point that it felt a little excessive. Yes, we need to normalise talking about periods because they’re natural and nothing to be “ashamed” of, but also I really don’t need a very graphic description of removing a tampon after a heavy bleed. I know exactly what it looks like.