Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2020
Source: Edelweiss ARC
|Read an ARC acquired via Edelweiss
Trigger warnings: gore, murder, sexual assault (off-page, but heavily implied)
I devoured Damsel—Arnold’s other take on classic tales—last winter break. The way the story examined common tropes of princess narratives blew my mind, so naturally, I couldn’t wait for Arnold’s next work. Red Hood uses Little Red Riding Hood as a vehicle for a tale examining feminine power, menstruation, and how to survive in a world that protects awful men.
Though mostly downplayed, I really liked the fantasy elements in this. The villains in this book are men who have the inexplicable ability to turn into wolves. Bisou, our main character whose introspection and journey we follow through a second-person narrative, magically has the ability to sense when these men are afoot, and when wolves attack. I wish this element had been more explored from a world-building standpoint, but it very much fit what Arnold seemed to be doing with the narrative.
I especially admired how Bisou and her friends gain more agency as the story progresses, turning into a coven alongside Mémé, Bisou’s grandmother and parental figure. The atmosphere here is also exquisite. Arnold works magic when it comes to melding contemporary and real-life fears with the terrors of the fantastic. The mysterious wolf attacks are horrifying, but so is the awfulness that is being a girl in high school.
A must-read for fans of more literary prose and loose but terrifying takes on classic fairy tales.