Scarletville, the USA’s only redhead sanctuary, is a place where the redder your hair the better. Redheads get special treatment everywhere and brunettes and blondes are second-class citizens. No-one knows this as well as Felicity St John, whose stunning, deep red hair is entirely responsible for her place in life. Her beautiful hair, the envy of many of her peers, has gotten her one of the highly coveted places in the Miss Scarlet pageant. All Felicity’s life, her mother, Ginger, has been training her to win the pageant and make them the first mother-daughter Miss Scarlets in history. But one day, Felicity recieves a terrifying message – someone at her school knows her deepest, darkest secret – Felicity’s hair is dyed!
As you might assume from the description, Red is a book with quite a silly sounding premise. I thought it would be campy and fun and it was, but not to the extent that I was expecting. There are also some more serious elements to the story. When one group of people has privileges because of the way they look, you can’t help but draw parallels with real life race issues, especially as most redheads are white. Over the course of the novel we get to find out more and more about how hard life in Scarletville is for non-redheads, and Felicity slowly begins to have more sympathy for them as she worries about being outed. One of her best friends, Haylie, is quite nasty about non-redheads and doesn’t change her tune during the novel, but is still someone Felicity loves and wants to keep being friends with. I really wanted some sort of comeuppance for the snootiest redheads, but there isn’t any. I’m naturally opposed to any sort of injustice, but on the other hand, maybe it’s not important, as Scarletville is just a small town, and the world outside of Scarletville is supposed to be just like the real world, so maybe the price the queen bee redheads pay for their status is being stuck in Scarletville! I’m not sure how I feel.
It took me a few chapters to get into the story, but once I did, I enjoyed it a lot, thanks to the fabulous characters. Felicity’s little brothers are adorable and her mother is…difficult, to say the least. The best friends, Ivy and Haylie are lots of fun. I thought the character that was blackmailing Felicity was very interesting and I really wanted to know more about her – I would love to hear the story from her point of view! The drama is mostly fuelled by personality clashes and by Felicity’s increasing desperation as she feels like the person who is ordering her around wants to destroy her life.
I wasn’t entirely convinced that Felicity would be as oblivious to the world outside Scarletville as she is at the start, but then if Scarletville had offered her everything she wanted during her life so far, maybe she would never have bothered to look outside it.
I did enjoy Red, although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting and I felt like some elements could have been fleshed out more fully. I’m looking forward to reading whatever the author does next.
Many thanks to the publisher, Quercus, for giving me the chance to read Red via NetGalley.