Review: Red by Alison Cherry

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Red by Alison CherryRed by Alison Cherry
Published by Delacorte BFYR on October 8, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
AmazonThe Book Depository

Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.

Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:

I know your secret.

Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say "strawberry blond." Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.

Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?

Alison Cherry’s Red was among my most-anticipated books of 2013. The concept sounded hilarious and Alison’s tweets and blog posts always made me laugh. How could this possibly go wrong? Clearly, I need to stop thinking this way, because while Red was certainly a quick read, but sadly not a good one.

Red takes place in the fictional town of Scarletville, Iowa, the National Redhead Sanctuary. Turns out that redheads are diminishing, as the gene for that hair color is recessive, so this town has been established for redheads to live together away from the ginger slurs of other places. In Scarletville, redheads are the top of the food chain, brunettes and blondes unrespected and strange. This should be funny and an awesome basis for a satire that shows how ridiculous judging people for physical attributes is, but, well, we’ll get back to that.

Premise aside, Red is a straight-forward contemporary novel that deals with friendship, learning to love yourself, and beauty competitions. Secretly a strawbie (strawberry blonde), Felicity St. John’s hair has been dyed to a proper red since she was two. Her mother, Ginger, is truly horrific, and the reason that Felicity has such low self-esteem she would rather be blackmailed than have people discover her true hair color. Plus, the family’s short on funds and Ginger chooses to put money into dresses and costumes for the beauty pageant, even though she has two other kids to take care of aside from Felicity. Way to teach the kids fiscal responsibility! Though I will admit that I loved the dress shopping scenes. How much do I want to go to the store where Ivy got her dress? SO MUCH.

The best part of Red was definitely the interpersonal relationships. I especially loved Ivy, who is the best character in my opinion. Ivy doesn’t buy into any of the town’s nonsense. She goes to prom in a suit, rather than a dress, refuses to wear heels in the pageant (which someone else signed her up for) because she doesn’t believe in pointless pain, and is totally logical. Also, props to Cherry for giving Ivy a boy and not making her the single tomboy. If the book had been from Ivy’s POV, maybe I would have liked it. The love interest, Jonathan, is also really great, very much not the stereotypical bossy guy of YA. Also, he took her to Fry Me to the Moon, a restaurant serving every kind of french fry with dipping sauces, which I want to go to very badly.

Unfortunately, I never bonded with Felicity, and, though she learned a little bit, it didn’t feel like she made a massive change. She’s so driven by what’s on the surface. Plus, the fact that she wouldn’t even trust her best friends with her secrets was pretty sad. They’ve done nothing to make her think they’re untrustworthy. I just never found Felicity to be particularly likable or interesting. Plus, hello, how did this girl not know there was more than one hairdresser in the world? Why get your hair super secretly dyed in the town where you live where people could just happen to catch you? *headdesks* Also, she’s one of those heroines who dates a guy she doesn’t like and starts trying on a new boyfriend before she dumps the old one. Not cool, yo. Not cool.

More problematic is that I’m not entirely sure what the point was. I’m running with Red as a satire because nothing else makes sense, but I don’t really think it was over the top enough for that. Also, the fact that the book promptly ends, rather than showing whether Scarletville learned anything was another drawback. Where Red hadn’t spent too much time on the romance, we’re suddenly fading out into an HEA, without getting any of the fallout from the climax. Was the town changed at all by Felicity’s revelation?

Even had the ending pulled the satiric element or some sort of clear message through, Red was mostly just boring. I didn’t care, because Felicity wasn’t compelling enough for me to care about her life in a contemporary way and the story wasn’t absurd enough to be funny. Honestly, it’s sort of a hot mess.

Red turned out to be one of my biggest disappointments of the year. The humor and intelligence I’ve seen in the author’s tweets and blog posts was not evident in her debut. I’d still be open to trying another of her books someday, but I’ll be watching for reviews first. Red might work for people who really enjoy the pageant concept, but as a cohesive whole, it’s lacking.

Favorite Quote:

“Hi,” Ivy finally said. “Have you got a question for me, or are we done here? Because I’ve got a pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch and last week’s episode of Granny Smackdown waiting for me at home.”

Tl;dr – Book in a GIFfy:

Answer after reading the book: WHO CARES?

Answer after reading the book: WHO CARES?

7 responses to “Review: Red by Alison Cherry”

  1. You know Christina, I felt exactly the same about this book! It had a good premise but the whole thing fell flat. Felicity was annoying, her Mother frustrating and the whole plot was infuriating. Definitely not a good read for me and clearly not you either. I agree though, I might try more of Cherry’s work, but this wasn’t good at all..
    Amanda @ Book Badger recently posted…Top Ten Tuesdays #17 – Book Covers I’d Frame As Pieces of ArtMy Profile

  2. fakesteph says:

    This is so disappointing to hear. I was hoping this would be amazing satire…
    fakesteph recently posted…Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren MorrillMy Profile

  3. I was so looking forward to this book, too. The cover is awesome and the premise sounds promising, but then I started reading reviews that echoed what you said here: the story isn’t over-the-top enough to be satire, and, frankly just dull. More than wondering why somebody would get their hair dyed in town—why doesn’t EVERYONE dye their hair red if blondes and brunettes are treated so poorly? I do have this book and may still give it a try someday, but it’s hard to dredge up excitement for a book that has just gotten dismal review after dismal review. Oh, well. Great review!
    Natalie@Natflix&Books recently posted…We Were Liars (Early Book Review)My Profile

  4. Now I don’t feel quite so bad about not having all that much interest in Red. Like, I don’t know, I enjoy satire, but to me the concept was a bit MUCH, if that makes sense. It probably doesn’t because I was fine with Beauty Queens but this is a bit much hah.
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  6. I got this for review and I’ve yet to even open it…It sounds sort of hilarious, but just didn’t catch my eye at all. After seeing your review I don’t feel as bad for just skipping over it. I’ll get to it eventually…maybe.
    Michelle @ In Libris Veritas recently posted…Mini-Read Review: Red & Wolfe Part 1 by Ella James (18+)My Profile

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