Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold – REVIEW
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.
“You never have to do anything that you don’t want to do. You don’t owe James – or anyone – access to your body. Not now. Not ever.”
Elana K. Arnold definitely writes polarising fiction; Damsel caused quite an outrage when it was released as it read more like adult fantasy than the YA fantasy it was marketed as and I think some readers were unprepared for its shocking content. It’s important to remember that these books are meant to make you uncomfortable, to force you to question the world around you, but please be aware of trigger warnings. For me, Red Hood felt more like a YA book due to the high-school protagonist but this doesn’t mean it still wasn’t graphically gory and bloody. Menstruation plays a huge role in this book, linking to feminine power and the appearance of wolfish men. The only issue I had with this was the fact that some women don’t have periods and some men do so it’s not a clearcut indicator of masculine/feminine and nor should it be.
“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 behaviour.”
Bisou is the sixteen-year-old main character whose first period ushers in the action of the book. The author explores the idea that menstruation allows a woman to become more attuned to the world and for certain women to be able to sense danger from men revealed as wolves. Bisou realises she is one of these women who are also keen hunters with a duty to protect other women. Whether you agree that violence is sometimes the only answer to men attacking women will colour your response to this book. The fantasy elements allow the author to incisively comment on toxic masculinity, questioning what makes a wolf, double standards, and misogyny.
“Maybe this is why people make up fables and myths and fairy tales: to fill in gaps. To answer unanswerable questions. To shelter their fears, and their hopes as well.”
Written in the second-person point of view, the narrative tone forces the reader into the action, and is enhanced by compellingly addictive prose. I also appreciated the verse that was interspersed throughout the chapters, further exploring the prevalent themes of the book. Female friendship and solidarity was celebrated, and the group dynamic between Bisou, Keisha and Maggie was wonderful. Mémé was a fantastic character and I loved what she brought to the book. Red Hood is another thought-provoking and timely novel from Elana K. Arnold, questioning toxic masculinity, rape culture, and feminine power. It’s a visceral, bloody and powerful story of how women can change the world.