The Girl In Red – A Modern Fairy Tale

A post-apocalyptic modern retelling of Red Riding Hood

If you have heard of Christina Henry, you would know that she is amazing at retelling fairy tales. In her previous novels, she has re-imagined stories of Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan. 

Now with her story Girl in Red, based on Red Riding Hood, Henry tells a story of post-apocalyptic world, and of a girl who has to journey to the only safe house she knows: her grandma’s home. 

In comparison to the rest of Henry’s novels, The Girl In Red does stand out because of it’s settings. They ordinarily still take place in a fairy-tale like setting, evoking the atmosphere of a time long since past. The Girl In Red feels modern in comparison and in some cases, real. A disease taking hold of civilization and turning it upside down, is all too real nowadays.

The book follows Cordelia, nicknamed “Red”, a 20-year-old mixed-raced girl with a prosthetic leg and major survival skills. She wears a red cape and carries an axe. Her story goes back and forth between “After” and “Before” as we see the struggles she and her family face when the world goes to chaos. The story begins with Red defending herself against an attacker using her own short-arm axe. She is shown to be a fierce force of nature, but also wounded by the trauma she’s endured.  

A sickness has taken over the world, starting with a cough, but quickly becomes bloody and grotesque. The story never goes into a lot of detail of why this is happening, but I think it adds to the story by giving the reader their own interpretation. Even though there are hints of supernatural and possible exterrestrial reasons for the post-apocalyptic setting, it is up to the reader to decide for themselves. Red very quickly loses her parents and it’s up to her and her brother to make it to Grandma’s house, the only safe place they know. 

Red’s goal is to reach Grandma’s house but the journey there is perilous and full of danger. Throughout the book, she meets soldiers, other survivors, people out to hurt her, even lost children. She becomes a stronger individual as the story progresses, but she tries hard to keep hold of her humanity and what makes her a person, rather than letting survival above all things take over her mind.

I do have to admit that I felt the ending was a little rushed. It did not quite have the satisfactory punch I was hoping for and I left the book feeling a little robbed. However, I can’t deny that the pacing of the book was really well written, and the tension Red goes through often kept me on my toes. Whenever she encounters someone I always feared for her and hoped the person was a friend, not a foe. That often was not the case.

Overall, The Girl In Red does give me some Walking Dead Vibes. Not with zombies chasing after our heroes, but more so with people being the real villains and one can never know who to trust. Despite the ending, I do recommend the book. It’s completely worth a read, and shows Henry to be a writer who takes risks with her stories. Not always following what worked in the past, and tries to do something new. 

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