Monday 11 May 2020


Title: Red Hood
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Re-Tellings
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, Harpercollins 
Release Date: 25th February 2020 US
                             16th April 2020 UK

BLURB from Goodreads
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.


I think the first thing that attracted me to the book was the cover, it immediately made me think of wolves. Then the title Red Hood and the blurb pulled at my curiosity. I’ll be totally honest I don’t usually read and really enjoy re-tellings, or the “new takes” on fairytales & fables, though I have read a few, such as Briar Rose by Jana Oliver and Splintered by A.G. Howard and loved those two. I felt like reading something a little different than my usual genre choices.  Another genre I don’t read a lot of, are books with poetry though it doesn’t put me off as much as it once did, so decided despite this being a re-telling I would give this one a go

The book begins with a “Dear Reader” section which I really liked, it was almost like having the author in front of you talking to you, introducing the book. The book is told in a third person style as though someone is telling Bisou and you the reader the story. I did love the comparison of people & sourdough saying they are both full of potential and able to share again and again as well as to rise and grow and fill each space.

The main character of the book is 16year old Bisou who has lived with and been brought up by her grandmother Sybil, or Mémé as she calls her. Bisou has a rather tragic past and still suffers flashbacks to certain traumatic things that she witnessed. Bisou came from a home where her father was violent towards her mother. Bisou keeps flashing back to seeing her mother on a bed covered in blood and then her grandmother arriving to take her away.

The book begins with Bisou awaiting the arrival of her boyfriend, James, to pick her up to go to the homecoming dance. It isn’t really Bisou’s idea of a great time, she isn’t as outgoing and popular as James is. When they arrive at the school, they naturally gravitate to the rest of James basketball team mates and their dates. Bisou goes through all the chatter, giving compliment and receiving them, all the while wishing the night was over and she was alone with James. Nothing out of the ordinary happens other than a rather drunken Tucker, one of the basketball team members wanting to cut in and dance with Bisou. Bisou ends up telling Tucker he can’t even dance when he is sober, which naturally embarrasses and infuriates him and as he retaliates, James steps in. It takes some of the other members of the team to stop James and Tucker from having a physical fight.

After the party things between James and Bisou are getting steamy and this is when the book feels a little odd as it is quite detailed in what they are doing and then the fact that suddenly Bisou becomes embarrassed as she discovers she is bleeding and having her first period. I’ll be honest I almost stopped reading at this point as I personally didn’t think all the detailing was needed. Bisou gets out of James truck and runs off into the woods. It’s whilst she is heading home through the woods that she hears something behind her. At first, she wonders if it could be that James has followed her, but then she realises she is hearing four feet not two. Then she is attacked by a large wolf, though she manages to fight it off with a large branch she finds and kills the wolf.  As the book goes on it is revealed that she has some sort of special calling, that the moon, and her period cycle somehow run together and she has to go into the woods and search for a wolf and kill it. Though there isn’t a wolf to kill every month still Bisou has to go out into the night and search for one.

I don’t really want to reveal anymore as it would basically tell you the whole story. The wolves Bisou is tasked with killing are not “just wolves” so they have their background and parts in the story too. Through rescuing a girl from a wolf and being sympathetic and offering a shoulder to lean on Bisou ends up making a couple of female school friends in her own right. Bisou often reveals within the book that she thinks people are only talking to her because of who her boyfriend is. There is the whole “coming of age” and “teenagers having sex” element within the book as well as the theme of “loss” with Bisou’s mum being murdered when she was at such a young age and then the bodies of murdered boys turning up in the woods. I really like the camaraderie the author created between Bisou, Keisha and Maggie. The way separately the girls felt weak yet when they stand together, united, they feel able to do anything and overcome anything. I adored the portrayal of the relationship between Mémé and Bisou, they seem to second guess each other a lot. They can work together in the kitchen and pre-empt what the other one needs or means by their actions. Then the other side of the book is the fantasy, and Bisou being prepared to battle and kill wolves every month. There was certainly a lot going on in the book, maybe a little too much, I’m not sure. It will be difficult to put a number out of five on this book because there are sections which deserve a five out of five yet other parts that don’t seem to really belong so would score a one or two out of five. I don’t know how to explain exactly how I feel about the book other than it feels almost like too much is being crammed in, like it’s a “coming of age” book, teen angst (periods & relationships) female angst, and a fantasy book mushed together, and its just not quite right. Individually all the elements would make great plotlines but mixed together in the way they are in this book….I just don’t know. Did I enjoy it? Well it wasn’t a bad book, but it didn’t wow me either.

My immediate thought upon finishing the book were that the book was not what I thought it would be, in fact I would say it was “more”. Also, despite not being what I thought it would be I ended up quite enjoying it.

Summing up, the book felt a little disjointed in places as though there had been a list of things to that all had to fit into the book, yet they didn’t necessarily all gel together brilliantly. It felt like the book still needed tweaking, or editing a bit more. For me the book still felt a little disjointed. It felt like it wasn’t quite finished, or rather should I say polished.

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