Title: Sisters Red
Author: Jackson Pearce
Page Count: 336 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown
Genre: urban fantasy, remade fairy tale
Copy for review provided by Book it Forward ARC Tours in anticipation of an honest review
50 words or less: After a brutal attack takes their grandmother, Scarlett and Rosie commit themselves to ridding the world of the Fenris, brutal werewolves who prey on pretty young girls. Until Silas, a fellow hunter, comes back on the scene and makes the girls wonder if life is really as good as it's going to get.
Sisters Red is a creative reimagining of the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood that weaves the elements of that story into the story of Scarlett and Rosie's quest to exterminate werewolves without losing themselves in the process. I was immediately sucked into this book from the moment I laid eyes on the Gestalt-esque cover, and was satisfied by the end of the book, for the most part.
The story revolves around the feelings and actions of the three main characters and is told, in alternating chapters, from the perspectives of Scarlett and Rosie. Scarlett is definitely the alpha female here; after saving Rosie from an attacking Fenris but losing her grandmother in the process, Scarlett feels personally responsible for the physical safety of the people she loves. Her hunting partner, Silas, felt the same way, until he went on a trip to San Francisco to deal with some family issues. He came back wondering if hunting was enough to sustain a person, or if there was more to life than just shedding blood to preserve the safety of others. He also had fallen in love with Rosie, the younger sister, who, although a hunter in her own right and more than capable of taking care of herself, was a much softer, gentler person than Scarlett. Scarlett bears the scars from her first encounter with the Fenris and the incident also cost her her eye; Scarlett's wounds are out in the open for all to see.
There's a saying that goes something like, once I save your life, I'm responsible for you forever, and that's definitely an issue in the relationships between Scarlett and Rosie and Scarlett and Silas. For all of her kick-ass abilities and passion about killing the Fenris, Scarlett is pretty clueless about people and how to maintain relationships with others. She's completely focused on exterminating the Fenris and doesn't understand if other people don't always share her devotion. There were times when I felt that Scarlett's attitude of "we can't EVER DO ANYTHING ELSE because IF WE DON'T HUNT, PEOPLE DIE" came across like kids who refuse to eat their meatloaf because people are starving in other countries- the sentiment is definitely heartfelt, but the approach is kind of futile.
Which brings me to the one thing that rubbed me the wrong way about this novel. I totally understand that Scarlett and Rosie shared a horrible ordeal that completely changed them when they were way too young to even have to know that such violence existed. I get that Scarlett saved Rosie from a horrible fate, is extremely disfigured from the ordeal, and feels a tremendous responsibility to keep that fate from falling on anyone else. I get that the Fenris are evil and unredeemable and will only keep killing and maiming if left to their own devices. Even in the face of all that, there were definitely times when Scarlett was emotionally abusive to Rosie, and to Silas, to a lesser extent. She held even the slightest show of independence against people; it was her way or the highway- if they weren't hunting werewolves, they were wasting time- half hour classes were out of the question and personally offensive to her. Boyfriends? Not a chance. The idea that, when the three of them dropped dead of exhaustion, there would be nobody to mourn the loss, never really occurred to her. Conveniently, Scarlett flipped out about the half hour personal improvement classes, but didn't seem to mind when Rosie wasn't hunting because she was cooking or cleaning or grocery shopping or doing all those other necessary tasks that she didn't personally have the time or focus to do. Scarlett was very possessive of Rosie- she wanted them to be connected forever, but only as long as Rosie did things her way. The whole "you can have a life but only if I approve of it" attitude definitely rubbed me the wrong way. I feel like if it were a male character trying to control a female character's life and choices like that, the response would be "blech," not "how sweet." Ultimately, the issue does get explained adequately in my opinion and the ending is a satisfactory resolution of that situation, but there was definitely a section where I was definitely concerned about this.
Excluding that element, Sisters Red is a great addition to paranormal YA literature and asks a lot of interesting questions about the difference between passion and obsession, the difference between living and existing, and the need that all people have to feel connected and understood. The kind of questionable relationship dynamics between the trio of main characters could definitely open the door to a good discussion of boundaries in relationships, protectiveness versus controlling behavior, and, ultimately, what to do when people just don't see things the same way. I'm definitely interested in reading more titles in this vein by this author.
Overall Grade: B+
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