By Ekta R. Garg
June 26, 2019
Genre: Fantasy/fairy tale
Release date: June 18, 2019
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A young woman finds herself without family or friends as she tries to travel hundreds of miles on foot to escape disease and chaos. Along the way she will need to call on every single instinct to help her survive. Author Christina Henry takes the familiar story of “Little Red Riding Hood” and gives it exciting twists and edges in her newest book The Girl in Red.
Cordelia doesn’t answer to that name; never has. It’s not her fault her mother, a professor of Shakespearean literature, named her after one of the bard’s heroines. She goes by Red, a nickname her father gave her when she was a child, and that’s it.
And even though Red has delved into some of Shakespeare’s work, her real fascination is for horror films and end-of-the-world novels. Good thing too, because the end of the world has crashed on the heads of everyone and no one knows why. Three months ago, people began dying from a mysterious illness everyone calls the Cough. That’s how it starts, but it ends in a much more gruesome way.
Although Red and her family already live on the edge of their small college town, she insists that they go to her grandmother’s house. Grandma lives in the middle of the woods with no neighbors for miles around, and Red knows they’ll be safe there from both the airborne disease as well as the depravity it has caused in people. If they leave by car, they’ll just get turned around at the government roadblocks, so Red says they need to walk. By staying in the woods, even though it’ll take much longer, they’ll make it to Grandma’s house. Her parents take forever to agree and then plan the trip, and her older brother, Adam, is acting like a brat about the whole situation.
Red’s practically bouncing on her toes—well, the toes on one foot, anyway. She lost part of her left leg when she was a child and uses a prosthetic leg to get around. Even though she’s an adult now at 20, her mother still treats her like she’s a child. But Red is the only one in her house who has taken the entire crisis seriously. She’s packed a camping backpack with the essentials and practiced for weeks carrying it around. All they have to do is leave already.
When they finally do, though, their family doesn’t leave together. Soon after, it’s just Red in the woods, putting one foot in front of the other, making the trek of more than 300 miles one step at a time. Along the way she defends herself from the increasingly savage men she meets who target lone women, and she calls on all the “research” she’s done through her books and movies. And even though losing all semblance of normal life burns in Red’s chest much more than any cough could, she keeps her eye on the main goal: getting to Grandma’s house safe and sound.
Author Christina Henry presents readers with a razor-sharp protagonist in Red. She’s smart and stubborn, resourceful but also flawed—all of the things readers love most in their main characters. Her disability provides an interesting character trait, but Henry doesn’t dwell on it to the point of distraction. It’s as much a part of Red as anything else, but it doesn’t define her.
The self-aware narration drills right to the heart of every single scene, and readers will thoroughly enjoy watching Red work through one challenge after another. For half of the book, Red travels all by herself. In the hands of a lesser skilled author, a lone character going on a journey would amount to a boring story. Henry, however, uses flashbacks with deft and care. The result is that even though Red may be alone for the first half of the novel, readers will still enjoy every minute with her.
If the novel struggles anywhere, it’s at the end. Red stays true to herself through the climax, but readers might wonder whether Henry could have developed the last few pages a little further. The final scene provides some solace but possibly not enough.
For the most part, however, the book flies, as will readers while they’re flipping or swiping pages. I recommend readers Bookmark The Girl in Red!