This is yet another book I initially read about a year and a half ago, but since I remember enjoying it, I decided to reread it so I could review it better. To my relief, despite lower-rated reviews I read from friends, I found that I still enjoyed Red for all its goofiness and craziness.
The second I read the synopsis for this book, I knew I needed to have it. I’ve been dying my hair a coppery red since I was fifteen, and it’s actually astounding how many people feel slightly betrayed when they discover that I’m not actually a redhead. I’ve had “real” redheads poke fun at me, and while I don’t care if people know I dye my hair, I sometimes feel a little bit like a liar when someone (especially strangers) compliment my hair color. My reaction is always to say, “Thanks, I dye it,” like I want them to know I can’t take credit for it.
That could be why I enjoyed Red so much, despite its immaturity and its flaws. I usually don’t go for books that can’t convince me to believe in its world, but fortunately I found that Cherry convinced me quite easily that Scarletville is a real place, and the people there are really kind of messed up. Felicity is a perfect narrator for the novel because she changes the most, and she’s not intentionally cruel but just kind of clueless. Felicity learning that her hair color—and everyone else’s, too—doesn’t matter is a perfect metaphor for the insignificant differences we all have that we can get hung up on.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- Red does not feel like a typical young adult novel because it is sprinkled with magical realism, which is not a genre you usually uncover in young adult literature. Through its delusional inhabitants, Scarletville manages to feel like a real place akin to the small towns scattered across the country that seem to have a quirk. We have all been exposed to places that feel absolutely tiny, especially when we’re on the wrong end of idiotic stereotyping. I experienced it living in a small town in Hawaii for three years, and I’m sure many other readers will be able to identify with Felicity’s plight by inserting their own struggles. I never questioned Scarletville’s obsession with redheads, and while they are certainly ridiculous, they’re supposed to be. I think Cherry made an excellent analogy that is easy to understand and easy to substitute—instead of redheadedness, you can easily fit in whatever ridiculous prejudice you’ve had to overcome.
- I appreciate how this book ends. Nothing gets wrapped up in a perfect little bow, and everything is still almost completely up in the air for Felicity. One of her best friends still isn’t speaking to her, she doesn’t win the Miss Scarlet pageant despite her rule-breaking, her mom is pissed at her, and she doesn’t seem to change anyone’s mind about being a redhead. In fact, all her worst fears are coming true, but instead, it is Felicity who changes enough to see that those things she feared don’t really matter. With each task her blackmailer convinced her to do, Felicity let go more and more of the things she thought would make her life perfect and uncovered someone more flexible and more tolerant of difference—not only in everyone else, but in herself, too. This is reality—one best friend sticks by her side (the one who never cared about appearances, so I believe it), one struggles to get over it (also believable for her character), one note thanks her standing up for “arties” and being brave, and she doesn’t change the whole world, but she changes her world, which really is enough. I thought it was perfect, and it doesn’t set you up for unrealistic expectations, which is a little surprising given how silly the premise seems.
What I Didn’t Like:
- I can admit that there were things that just seemed too silly to swallow. Brent, Felicity’s “perfect” boyfriend, is too affectionate, too adoring, too not-human to be a real person. He seemed more like a filler to add drama to Felicity’s life when things started going south. Gabby, Felicity’s blackmailer, seems too disinterestedly malicious in that she honestly doesn’t care about punishing Felicity for anything, but just wants to use her to provoke reactions from others. The conflict could have been really amazing, but I wish that we hadn’t known the blackmailer until perhaps the very end (if ever), and I wish it had been someone who didn’t seem just carelessly cruel. It wasn’t quite a home run.
- Also, maybe I can’t really complain about this, but I’m incredibly disappointed that Jonathon, Felicity’s brunette classmate, did not have more screen time in this book. He did an excellent job of pulling Felicity out of her head, and I would have believed their getting together at the end of the story more if she’d spent more time with him. I would have loved to hear his perspective on being a brunette in a red-headed town, or have heard Felicity perhaps confess the truth to him before blurting it out in front of everyone. I would have wanted him to be the only one to come up to Felicity after the pageant to show her that she wasn’t totally alone. I wanted more scenes like Fry Me to the Moon, and I think if he had played a bigger role in the story, Felicity’s transformation would have felt even more believable, and I could trust in their little happily ever after.
Overall: You’ve got to suspend some of your disbelief if you want to read this, and you’ve got to go into it knowing that its not sincere in its prejudice against non-redheads. Recognizing that these characters are supposed to be absolutely ridiculous helps with getting through the novel, and understanding Felicity as a character and why she would go to such lengths to keep her secret safe adds to the overall enjoyment of the story. I could connect with Felicity on a certain level because we’re both “arties,” but you could fit almost any dumb stereotype into this town and it would be perfect. It’s a short, fun read for long days, and it certainly won’t change your life, but that doesn’t mean it won’t open your eyes a little bit more to the small discriminations that occur around us every day.
Check out this review on my blog!