ARC Review: Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

Red HoodRed Hood by Elana K. Arnold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

Warnings: physical violence, graphic deaths and gore; sexual violence including mentions of date rape, attempted sexual assault, stalking and threatening; domestic abuse; death of loved one, and trauma from the event, mention of abortion, graphic mention of menstruation, explicit sex scene, emetophobia

Having read Arnold’s Damsel, I was obviously looking forward to another feminist retelling of a fairytale where women take back their power and Red Hood certainly delivered on that. This one is a red riding hood retelling in an urban fantasy setting, with the ‘wolves’ being actual predatory men who turn into wolves at the full moon, and the ‘red hood’ being a hunter who menstruates, and thus, finds a sort of superpower during that time. Written from a second person perspective and set in the forest-y setting of the Pacific Northwest, it is the story of Bisou, who taps into her power one full moon night which coincides with her first period, when she is being chased by a wolf into the forest (and no it wasn’t from a sexual assault as it sounds from the synopsis), and fights back. Later, however, reports come out that one of her classmates was found dead, naked, in the forest, in a manner similar to how she killed the wolf.

Bisou’s story unravels along with her mother’s and her grandmother’s, in part, through poems that start off each section of the story, as well as flashbacks, and a first-person telling of her grandmother’s story. It looks at rape culture, toxic masculinity, and how much violence done to women is shoved under the rug, and how the recent rise of incel culture is another dangerous ideology. Bisou grows from a quiet aloof existence, to confiding in her new friends and accepting support from them. Keisha and Maggie, both victims in different ways, and her grandmother, too, all of them come together. Her relationship with her boyfriend, James, feels mostly irrelevant to the plot, but it can be said that he stands as an example of a healthy relationship in the story, though we don’t know the future of it.

As expected, blood is a big part of the story. The changes in Bisou the girl to Bisou the hunter being brought about by her menses, there is also a lot of weight attached to it. Especially in the start, with Bisou starting her period, there is a LOT of description (it might be uncomfortable to some who find bodily fluids gross, tbh) about her first couple of periods and changing of sanitary products. This stage also coincides with her feelings of monstrousness over killing someone, and also her fear over getting caught, until she learns of her grandmother’s story, and finds that the powers help her protect people; even so, her complicated emotions throughout the various stages are written quite well. The rage over helplessness when it came to Maggie’s story was an experience many can relate to, seeing injustice and not being able to do much about it. The story about her mother also comes full circle in a way where she can process through it and both she and her grandmother can find closure. It leaves out some things unresolved, but as a standalone it does address enough that I can’t really fault it. Finally, it is a powerful read about rage and empowerment, and I liked its take on red riding hood.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Balzer + Bray, via Edelweiss.

Also by the author


View all my reviews

Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

Releases on February 25, 2020

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