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31 Days of Teens’ Top Ten: Sisters Red

2011 May 6
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Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Support Teen Literature Day during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year. Each day during the month of May, The Hub will feature a post about Teens’ Top Ten. Be sure to check in daily as we visit past winners and current nominees!

Red Riding Hood (2011)

I’ve always loved fairytales. The stories themselves seem timeless, most likely due to the absolute adaptability of the stories. Different countries, different generations, and different times all influence the shape of traditional fairytales. Of course, certain stories are more popular through the ages than others. Tales like “Snow White” appear time and again in various forms. Recently, the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” has seen its own popularity grow. Perhaps the current popularity of werewolf-themed stories has helped elevate this classic tale of a young woman pitted against a savage wolf. Take as an example the 2011 movie Red Riding Hood starring Amanda Seyfried, which places our heroine in a medieval village haunted by a werewolf.

Illustration by Gustave Doré

With fairytales in particular, I like to trace back the origins of a story as much as possible so I can see how the story has evolved with the times. The University of Southern Mississippi provides an interesting resource online called “The Little Red Riding Hood Project.” The resource provides both English translations and original scans of several historical versions of the Little Red Riding Hood story, dating back to the 1729 translation of the classic Charles Perrault French tale, “Le Petit Chaperon rouge.” In this 1729 translation, we see a story of a delicate girl, beautiful and naïve. Both she and her grandmother are eventually eaten alive by the hungry wolf, and the story concludes with a moral about the dangers of “wolves” (in all forms) to young maidens. As time progresses, the story itself changes some. While the young girl may not be consumed by the wolf, she is usually at its mercy and needs the help of a brave woodsman to rescue her.

Flash forward to a unique reinvention of this classic tale in Jackson Pearce’s book, Sisters Red (currently nominated for the 2011 Teens’ Top Ten).  I couldn’t wait to dig into this story to see what shape it would take, and I was not disappointed. In Sisters Red, we have two sisters sharing the red cloak – Scarlett and Rosie March. The girls are orphaned at an early age, but they refuse to play the parts of victims (yay!). These sisters are not girls that meekly wait to be rescued by anyone; rather, they take the part of the protectors and play savior to naïve women who don’t see monsters roaming their streets. The older sister, Scarlett (aka Lett) is heavily scarred and blind in one eye – a trauma she experienced while protecting her younger sister from a wolf attack when they were children. Now as teenagers (ages 18 and 16), readers see two girls living on their own in the Georgia countryside, fiercely training to go out on regular “hunts” to protect the women in their communities from the “fenris” (the wolves in this tale). The fenris are creatures that were formally male humans who have become infected by other fenris, have lost their human souls, and live to deceive – and consume – young, pretty girls. They are handsome and tempting creatures that use their pretty façade to lure and prey on women. And the March sisters want to make sure that they take down as many fenris as possible in their lifetime, to protect the naïve women in their communities…with knowledge, comes responsibility. They are joined by their childhood friend, Silas, who is the son of a woodsman (a nod by Pearce to the classic woodsman character in traditional versions of the tale).

If this story was just about tough women hunting wolves, it would fall pretty flat for me. However, Pearce does a great job of bringing the sisters to life and really develops the complicated relationship between Lett and Rosie. The story alternates between the viewpoints of Lett and Rosie…but never in a way that is confusing or disorienting – it’s always clear which sister’s perspective is at the forefront. Lett is obsessed with the hunt and is convinced that her skill at killing fenris is all she can offer the world now that she is damaged and scarred. Her sister Rosie is beautiful and tough, but is torn between her blind devotion to the sister that saved her life and her desire to experience more from life than just “the hunt.” Silas is a crucial character/presence that serves as a bridge between the two girls and their issues – both a trusted hunting partner for Lett AND someone who feels the same desires as Rosie for experiencing more in life.

So while the new wolf lore created by Pearce is interesting, I found the dynamic between the three main characters the most compelling part of this story. Speaking personally as one of three sisters, I can vouch for the authentic emotions/relationship between Lett and Rosie. And seeing just how far the classic fairytale story of the naïve victim (Little Red Riding Hood) has evolved really puts a smile on my face.

For those interested in more of Jackson’s current and/or upcoming work, you can visit Jackson Pearce’s personal web site. Jackson also has a youtube video channel that has become a fan favorite, where she talks about her work, life, and anything she feels like :)  And just so you get another perspective on this book, below is a reader review from Kyle on youtube. I hope you pick up this book – you won’t be disappointed!

–Nicole Dolat

Currently reading…anything from Tokyopop (I can’t believe there won’t be any more English-translations coming from Tokyopop as of 5-31-11) :(

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxtxDGl8kQM&w=425&h=349]

 

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