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.
♥ There’s a lot of chatter on the interwebs about whether or not this should have been listed as an adult book, rather than YA. I remember there being a similar conversation when Damsel, her last retelling came out. There are definitely more adult themes, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s not for teens. Just because something is hard, just because something is disturbing, doesn’t mean that it’s not something that teens deal with every day.
The description of menstruation is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s raw and extremely honest, down to how it feels waking up with blood on you. I would have loved a book like this growing up. Before I got my period, no one every told me what it would really feel like. My mom had already died two years before, and I was armed only with what I had learned in school and the kindness of a friend’s mom who bought me my first package of pads so that I’d have some when I needed them. So this would have been really important for me, and I think it will be really important for a lot of other teenagers, especially those who start later than average, like Bisou.
♥ There’s a huge conversation threaded throughout the entire narrative about toxic masculinity and how damaging it is to the women it affects. It’s about rape culture and consent. This is not a book about how it might ruin the boy’s life–they all get what’s coming to them.
It’s hard though, the complacency that surrounds some events and comments at first. But people are given the opportunity to grow and change, and most of them do. Unless you are James, and then you are wonderful from the beginning.
♥ The female friendships here are stellar. Bisou, Keisha, and Maggie knew each other at the beginning of the book, and by the end they’ve formed what they call their coven, with Bisou’s grandmother rounding out their circle.
And if you like Mémé, there’s a whole section in the middle that’s about her. It’s also, blessedly, written in first person, which is a nice break from the rest of the book being in second person (that’s just a pet peeve of mine though).
“This is something to contemplate later–why you believed Tucker, who you never really trusted, instead of Maggie, who had never given you a reason not to.”
“I am sure you have discovered, as I did that night, that sometimes we are made of different stuff than we imagined.”
“It’s not that we need more wolf hunters,” you say. “It’s that we need men to stop being wolves.
“People used to believe that werewolves were created by witches. So, even way back in the fourteenth century, women were being blamed for men’s bad behavior.”
“It’s not sad,” you say. “It’s brave.”
“Things can be more than one thing at a time,” says Keisha, and she’s right. Brave and sad. Boys and wolves.
“Imagine how different our whole understanding of the world could be if women were reporting what had happened instead of men.”
“Let’s not keep the secrets of bad men.”
ELANA K. ARNOLD is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets.
Prize: Win a copy of RED HOOD by Elana K. Arnold (US Only)
Starts: 18th February 2020
Ends: 3rd March 2020