Red is 16 and lives with Granny in a cottage in the village, where boarding up the house and hiding during Wolfstime is a means of survival. Red helps Granny with her baked goods business, catering as well as door-to-door sales.
Red has a constant internal battle between her wild side and her strict, overprotective upbringing, and the issue of “control” as she discovers she has a hot temper when the “mean girls” push her too far. She is plagued by nightmares she doesn’t understand, but the Once Upon a Time fans will recognise them as her wolf side coming out. Red balances the difficult times with Granny at home and the girls at school with an emerging and satisfying romance with Peter.
*WARNING: This review may contain spoilers. Also, OUAT gifs.*
Ok, so you may not know this about me, but I am a H U G E OUAT fan. I just love everything about the show, especially the characters! So, of course, when I heard about this book I knew I HAD to read it, especially since I always thought that Red should have been given more space in the show.
I was very happy with how Red was portrayed in this book. She’s 16, so of course she behaves like a normal teenager most of the time, but at the same time, she is fierce and loyal and brave. She has big dreams for her future, and she works hard to achieve them. However, she is living through some though times, and of course that creates tension with her grandmother. I liked the way the author dealt with this situation: Granny isn’t portrayed as “the mean adult who won’t let me have any fun”. Red understands why her grandmother behaves the way she does and knows that she is only concerned about Red’s safety, but she still struggles with it because she’s a teenager who wants to live like her supposed friends do. The relationship between Red and Granny is complicated, yes, but their love for one another is never in doubt. Each of these incredibly strong women would do (and does) anything to ensure that the other is safe and happy.
I also liked how the story touched on delicate issues like bullying. As in any self-respecting YA novel, the resident popular girls make our heroine’s life very difficult, often picking on her and making fun of her because she is different. I really felt sorry for Red, but I also really liked how she dealt with the situation, escaping from her role of victim. And oh! Red’s budding romance with Peter is TOO CUTE for words! I ship them too much to be reasonable and objective about this, so please ignore me as I squeal in delight at this wondrous display of young love.
I do have a few complaints, though (and, let’s face it, you’d be worried if I didn’t). The actual magical side of Red basically never emerges, if not through her dreams.
I was expecting a whole lot more background on her wolf side, and the effects it has on her, but it never arrived. The wolves themselves appear a few times throughout the book, but mostly move in the background, and even when they do appear, they aren’t all that different from normal wolves.
And then, there’s the wizard. So, ok, I can understand why Red would decide to obtain a magical item from a wizard to help her grandmother. But KNUBBIN?
After all that wizard talk, I was totally expecting a Rumpelstiltskin cameo by that point, and so ended up being very, very disappointed.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading more about Red, and the book kept me pleasantly entertained. I think fans of the show will definitely enjoy it more than non-fans, but it is independent enough that you could easily like it even if you’ve never seen OUAT before (I’m only not sure that we could be friends then…).