Book Review: Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine

Seeing RedSeeing Red
Kathryn Erskine
Scholastic Press, October 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-46440-6

This book begs to be read, the story must be heard. Red’s tumultuous summer of ’72 deals with an imperative, yet oft untold part of our history. Discovering these deplorable truths is painful. Many acts of our ancestors are unfathomably cruel and hateful; particularly when one expects that his great-great-greats shared the same sense of kindness, generosity and justness that his own parents instilled and nurtured in him.

My history books told of progress in 1972. Nearly 20 years prior, the Supreme Court ruled against segregation in schools, but it wasn’t until early ’72 that the president signed the law stating that women and minorities must be treated just the same as white males. Regrettably, this was not enough to change the thinking or the actions of many ignorant, bigoted white males in Virginia. What my history books didn’t say, Ms. Erskine does. This is historical fiction, in that the characters are fictional; but the history is gruesomely real, including the gut-wrenching story of Emmett Till.

In the tiny town of Stony Gap, Virginia, twelve-year-old Red, a remarkably good boy, was forced to become an admirable, courageous young man. Fantastically crafted, he is a captivating character that with a determined sense of always doing what is right, resulting in loyalty, honesty, and the willingness to defend the weak, almost to the point of ferocity. Easily imagined as a puffy-chested, tiny, scrappy rooster that will become vicious to protect; Red quickly captured this reader’s heart.

The sudden death of his father combined with his mom’s desire to leave the only home he has ever known create a panic that causes Red to make a very big mistake. In his efforts to right his wrong, he discovers a shocking secret about his very own ancestors. With wide open eyes, Red begins to see a bigger picture of discrimination, racism and cruelty. The lengths that he is willing to go to in order to right more wrongs than he could have imagined are nothing short of amazing.

This is one of the most touching, heart-wrenching, yet hopeful books that I have read. I hope that it can be found in school libraries all over my home state of Virginia. I fantasize that history teachers everywhere have this book to refer to and to share with their students. While Seeing Red is intended for, and perfectly suited for a Middle Grade audience; I cannot imagine any adult reading this book without shedding a tear.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2014.


Book Blitz: Sunset Rising by S.M. McEachern

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Title: Sunset Rising
Series: Sunset Rising #1
Author: S.M. McEachern
Publication date: November 12th 2013
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult



February 2024: Desperate to find refuge from the nuclear storm, a group of
civilians discover a secret government bio-dome. Greeted by a hail of bullets
and told to turn back, the frantic refugees stand their ground and are
grudgingly permitted entry. But the price of admission is high.

283 years later… Life as a slave in the Pit had never been easy, but for
seventeen-year-old Sunny O’Donnell it was quickly careening out of control.
Her mother was killed in the annual spring Cull, leaving her alone with a father
who decided to give up on life. It’s not that she blamed him for grieving, but if
they didn’t earn enough credits to keep their place inside the Pit, they would
be kicked out into a world still teeming with radiation. That left her to earn
the credits for both of them. It didn’t help that her boyfriend, Reyes Crowe,
was pressuring her to get married and abandon her father.

Sunny didn’t think life could get any worse, until she was forced upstairs
to the Dome to serve and entertain the elite at a bachelor party. That’s where
she met Leisel Holt, the president’s daughter, and her fiancé, Jack Kenner. Now
Sunny is wanted for treason. If they catch her, she’ll be executed.

She thought Leisel’s betrayal was the end for
her…but it turns out it was just the beginning.

Sunset Rising is Book One of a series.


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An Excerpt from Sunset Rising


“Oh, Summer. If you weren’t so picky, you could have been married by now. But whenever a boy is interested in you, you’re suddenly not interested in him. I think you like flirting more than actually having a boyfriend.”

“That’s not true. I just haven’t met the right one yet.”

“Though you do bring up a good point. You’re running out of time.”

Sunset RisingSummer could have had her pick of any boy in the Pit. A full head shorter than me, her small stature and delicate limbs gave her an elegant, feminine quality. I always felt large and clumsy next to her.

“You know, we’re always talking about me,” Summer said. “How are you? How’s your dad?”

She might regret asking that question, but I gave her an honest answer. “Dad lost his job yesterday because he didn’t show up for work.”

“Oh, Sunny. What are you going to do?”

I heard sympathy in her voice, and exasperation, too. My father had always been a little self-destructive. My mother had done a fairly good job of protecting me from it, but without her, I was on my own with him. “I told Reyes last night I couldn’t marry him until after the next Cull.”

“You’re postponing? Again?” she asked. “That’s a bit drastic. I’m sure your father can get another job. He’s had a lot of experience in the mines.”

“He’s barely been eating since Mom left, and now he’s too weak to get out of bed.”

“But you’ve put your marriage on hold once before, and I can’t imagine Reyes is happy with postponing again. And you’re not getting any younger, Sunny. You’re almost eighteen. Aren’t you afraid Reyes is going to get fed up with waiting and move on to someone else?”

I had never thought about Reyes being with someone else. We had been together forever. And at our age, it was getting kind of late to go looking for a new partner. Of course he would wait for me. If I gave him enough time, he would eventually understand that my father needed me right now, and I couldn’t leave him.

But there was wisdom in her words. At seventeen, I was middle-aged, and that didn’t bode well for getting approval to have a child. Population control in the Pit was getting stricter all the time. Reyes really wanted a child, but if I was being honest with myself, I didn’t. I guessed that was why I didn’t feel an urgent need to get married right away.


About the Author

S.M. McEachernS.M. McEachern (also known as Susan) comes from the rocky shores of Canada’s East Coast. As a resident of Halifax during her early adult years, she attended Dalhousie University and earned an Honors Degree in International Development Studies with a focus on ocean development. Throughout her academic studies and early career, Susan had the privilege to work with many developing countries on resource management projects.

Becoming an author has been a lifelong dream for Susan. “Sunset Rising” is her debut novel and the first of many she plans to write.

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