The Girl in Red
Berkley, June 2019
From the publisher—
It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.
There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.
Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….
I read this book during the holidays and, weeks later, I’m still stewing about it. I guess that’s not necessarily a terrible thing because, after all, it means the book made a lasting impression on me but…
Red is a young woman who’s apparently alone in the world following the advent of a pandemic cough but we soon learn that’s not entirely true. The author switches the scene back and forth from just before to now and back again, a style that can be confusing but it works well here. Red is determined to get to her grandmother’s house deep in the forest but has a perilous journey to get there. Fortunately, she’s somewhat prepared for the dangers she faces because she prepared well, unlike her parents and brother (who is so clueless you have to wonder how he made it as long as he did even before the Crisis). To add to her difficulties, Red is an amputee and, not that it matters to the story but she’s biracial, a nice touch.
Red has a number of twisty turny encounters but she keeps going for weeks, fending off bad guys and monsters as well as the government that wants to put everybody in quarantine (but even the government offers a hero of sorts) and the nearly unbearable tension kept me reading far into the night. As post-apocalyptic stories go, this one is a doozy and I loved how Ms. Henry turned Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf into an even scarier tale. So, why am I so bent out of shape? Well, I can’t tell you specifically because it would be a major spoiler but let me just say that Chapter 15 has a whopper of a surprise and I was left wanting so much more. I’m really torn because until then I was completely immersed but that nonending left me cold. Fortunately, not every reader sees it that way; all I can say is Bah Humbug…but dagnabbit, this was good!
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.