Review of Red Hood

Red Hood
by Elana K. Arnold
High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    357 pp.
2/20    978-0-06-274253-3    $18.99

After a consensual (and vividly described) sexual encounter with her boyfriend that, to her surprise, ends in her beginning to menstruate for the first time, sixteen-year-old Bisou is attacked by a wolf on her way home, and is able to kill it. The next day, she learns that a male classmate has been found naked and dead in the same area of the woods. It is revealed, partly through an extended flashback, that Bisou has inherited the role of “hunter” from her grandmother, that her menses will continue to arrive with the full moon, and that during that time wolves will attack girls or women and she will have the ability to kill those wolves. Arnold (author of the Printz Honor–winning original fairy tale Damsel, rev. 11/18) here spins “Little Red Riding Hood” as a story of rape and rape culture as well as of female strength and vengeance. Second-person narration with evocative description makes for a captivatingly immediate reading experience (“As his jaw snaps at you, so close you feel the skim of his teeth on your flesh, the slice of his claw at your breast, you find his neck, your fingers plunge deep into his lush fur and you lunge past him”). Occasional interspersed free-verse poems by Bisou and her murdered mother distill the emotions present in the narrative. A disturbing but ultimately empowering, and thoroughly immersive, feminist fairy tale.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a current member of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, and has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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