For What It's Worth

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Review: The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

the girl in red book cover
It's not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn't look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there's something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn't like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn't about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods....~
Goodreads

Source: e-arc provided in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley

Review: I was sure this was the book for me - a dark YA retelling of Little Red Riding Hood but the writing style was really frustrating for me.

The things I liked:

- It is dark! Henry pulls no punches about what it's like to survive post apocalypse. YA usually holds back a little or softens the edges (especially by adding a romantic interest) and The Girl In Red does not. Survival is probably 20% about the cure (or killing zombies or whatever) and 80% outwitting/avoiding your fellow survivors. Red has a family and she cares about them but it's not all sunshine and roses - they fight, they disagree, they make tough choices.

- Red watches lots of movies and knows all the common traps people fall into and she IS NOT going to be one of them. I think we all have watched enough post apocalypse movies and tv shows at this point that we yell at the TV for how stupid people act. Red vocalizes what we're all thinking. It's funny and it gives her a plausible reason for her survival skills.

- Red is an amputee with a prosthetic leg and I like how it was written as something that doesn't deter her in any way but isn't ignored either. I think a lot of survival stories tend to either completely ignore disabilities thinking (wrongly) the people wouldn't be able to survive or add some suped up ability - like a prosthetic leg or arm that can be turned into a weapon or something like that. I have limited knowledge in this area but it seemed well done.

The not so much:

- Red has a huge chip on her shoulder. HUGE. She thinks she knows everything about everything and isn't afraid to let you know that she thinks she's smarter than everyone. Red does not have to be nice, or even likable - the girl is trying survive - but she's put herself so far above everyone else that it's difficult to to make an emotional connection to her when she does show feelings of loss or grief. The impact just isn't as great.

- As I said Red knows everything! And this is more about the writing than Red as a character - but the author felt the need to explain, in great detail, how she knows these things:

Performs a defensive maneuver -  learned that during that one self defense class she took.

Discusses the rules of succession with a soldier (and is sure to school him) - because she took a social studies class once.

Doesn't want to eat candy - discussion ensues about the dangers of artificial sweeteners and chemicals and cancer and how the government once lied about arsenic in wallpaper.

Knowing the right antibiotics to choose at an abandoned store - she had read all the fact sheets that WHO posted on their website - long before the apocalypse.

Again. I'm not talking about Red being smart or wanting to learn things. that's awesome! I'm talking about how the author wrote it - making Red that smart - then needing to explain every bit of knowledge.

Like this for example:

“He looked, Red thought, like a refugee from The Outsiders (which was not a film she would normally watch but her eleventh-grade English teacher had done a Book vs. movie term and that was one of his selections).”

This really made the flow of the book slow waaaay down for me.

The premise is cool - I think the author was more than willing to take this to where it needed to go to show the terror, loneliness, hardships and confusion - with an interesting twist that I won't spoil.

There's no romance, there are severe consequences for dumb behavior and a heroine who is tough and smart. I loved that she was a loner - rather than the typical group dynamic in these kinds of books where there always has to be a group. But the writing just felt bogged down in facts and opinions (inner monologue) on everything from guns to artificial sweeteners. I think this could have all been incorporated more seamlessly to an otherwise cool story.

Even though it didn't really work for me, I would recommend this one to readers who like darker YA, no romance, tough heroines.

I should also point out that this is VERY loose retelling. Her name is Red, she's wearing a  red hoodie and on her way to grandmother's house but that's about it. The *wolf* is more mankind in general but with a twist...

For another point of view – check out Lindsi from Do You Dog Ear’s review

32 comments:

  1. I don't see much dark YA like this so the plot sure does intrigue me!

    Lotte | www.lottelauv.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. It is definitely dark and I did love that about it.

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  2. The book description sounds okay but I'm put off by the cover. I know, you should never judge a book by the cover but I do and I hate this cover, lol.
    Your thoughts just cement my position of not for me. I'd want the main character eaten before the book ended.

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    1. The cover is s little weird but I felt like it fit the fairy tale aspect of it.

      She got rather irritating at times.

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  3. Like you, I'm attracted to the idea of this book but am concerned about its execution. Your criticism -- that the main character pretends to be smarter than she is -- would make me avoid the book if this is the author's faulty writing but not if the author intended to make the character manifestly insecure. Which is it?

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    1. She's not pretending! She does know everything lol

      I think what annoys me most is that the author feels the need to show HOW she knows everything.
      So for every subject that comes up she then tells you how she learned it.

      Like - knowing about antibiotics because she spent hours at the WHO site one day or the quote that included about the movie, for example.

      It slows the pacing way down.

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  4. I've been seeing this book around a bit. I like the cover and was tempted to try it, but I don't think I will :(

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    1. I hate to dissuade people because so many people loved it. Read a few more reviews before deciding.

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  5. I really do want to read something by this author, but I might not start there! The author explaining where Red learned everything would get annoying. I can see how it might be cool to know how she knows certain things, but not every.single.time. We get it - she's smart. LOL I like that she has a physical disability though. You don't see that in books often, and we need more of it.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. From reading other reviews & talking to friends - I don't think this is her usual writing style so I want to try something else by her too.

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  6. The writing style does sound a bit frustrating, with all those explanations gumming up the flow. I like the dark sound of it though, and thew fact that it's a loose retelling (I've had this recommended to me but I kept wondering- post apoc Red Riding Hood???) How would that work haha? I think it's funny too how the author addresses the whole movie tropes thing- because yes, how many times have we said "no don't do THAT" at the screen lol.

    Thanks for the balanced review! I'm definitely going to get this one but I'll have my expectations in check, I think. :)

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    1. I think you would like it Greg!

      I'm thinking the second book will have more of a connection to the fairy tale.

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    1. I'd love to know what you think if you read it! You get impatient like I do but you might like it.

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  8. Gosh, I can see what attracted you to this one Karen but all that potential and kind of ruined by an arrogant character and not the good sort. I'd love to be able to pick up a skill after one short lesson. Was there any explanation for her amazing abilities of knowing everything or just easier on the storyline to have her gifted. Sounds like a case of lazy writing which is a massive shame. I'm glad you were still able to enjoy it regardless though Karen, really enjoyed your review.

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    1. Yes! And that was the problem for me - after every thing she mentions she knows -there's a long explanation of WHY she knows.

      but Kelly - I think you would love this book. It's a very feminist retelling with a tough girl who is uncompromising.

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  9. A book I've been hearing lots about. It seems to be one of those books that nobody exactly either loves or hates but have mixed feelings about. I guess I'm going to have to read it and decide for myself.

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    1. I've only read glowing reviews - which is why I picked it up.

      In this case it was more it's me not you, I think. The writing style wasn't for me.

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  10. I don't much like the sound of Red-I think she'd drive me crazy, same with that writing style! I don't generally read retellings anyway but your review was helpful!

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    1. It was mroe how it was written than me being upset by how much she knew.

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  11. Hmm I was wondering about this one and it sounds like it ok. I might end up liking it.

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    1. Most readers loved it so what do I know?? lol

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  12. I'm not a fan of arrogant characters at all. And it kind of seems, lazy? That she'd be special? Idk if this would be for me. Lovely review, though!
    Genesis @ Whispering Chapters

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    1. She's not special exactly...just someone who pays attention and likes to learn but yeah - very arrogant or at least condescending.

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  13. I've seen a lot of mixed things and reviews that have me unsure as to whether I'll really like this one, but I do want to try it. The premise is too interesting not to. I'll have to see how I feel about all the explanations because in a way I kind of like the idea of there being a reason she knows the seemingly obscure things she knows, but I can see how it would really slow the pace.

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    1. Yes, I liked having reasons too it was more how it didn't flow as far as the writing went.

      If you read it, let me know what you think.

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  14. Sorry it didn't totally work for you but I'd not heard of this one and I am a little intrigued. I agree that even darker YA doesn't often tend to get that dark so I want to read simply because you say the author isn't afraid to pull punches and it is dark. It seems a little different at least.

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    1. Most people loved it so I say go for it!

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  15. What an interesting review! It sounds like you ended up quite mixed on how to feel about Red's character. I love that she has a disability but still is such a strong and steady character. And it sounds like a cool world. But the chip on her shoulder about knowing everything could annoy me :/

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    1. It's not that I didn't like Red for being so smart or cold but how the author wrote that knowledge - always adding weird facts for every ability. I found it super distracting.

      I really liked the disability rep in the way it was a factor to consider but it also didn't hold her back.

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  16. How interesting---it's good to know about the know-it-all aspect of her character. That might bug me too, but I still definitely plan to give this book a chance.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  17. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I don't think I see myself reading this book, but you never know. 👍✨

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