Rummanah Aasi
  Enjoy a guest review from Jules, my dear friend and book buddy, who timely read and reviewed Red Riding Hood which is now released in theaters. Thanks Jules!

I think YA novels often get made into movies because their stories, at least until the publication of series like Harry Potter, Eragon, and Twilight, are stereotypically short in length.  They can be adapted to a screenplay with relatively little story lost in the process and come with a built-in audience, babysitting money burning a hole their pockets.  Add in a hunky lead and blow some stuff up and you’ve got a summer blockbuster.  Adaptations of Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood are making live action appearances for spring break this year. 
Little Red Riding Hood, however, isn’t so little anymore.  Grimm’s dark fairytale was adapted to a screenplay, titled simply Red Riding Hood, by David Leslie Johnson having been mentored by Hollywood heavy-hitter Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption; The Green Mile.)  In the book’s introduction, the movie’s director, Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) said, “The deeper we went into the world [of Red Riding Hood], the more I realized that the characters and their back stories were too complex to fit into the film, so I wanted to help create a novel to fully explore the tangled web of emotions in the village of Daggorhorn.”  Hardwicke called upon a personal friend, Sarah Blakley-Cartwright who had just graduated cum laude from Barnard College, to write the book.
Description: In a time when villages are so small that everyone knows everyone else, one girl struggles to find her own way.  Valerie is not a “good girl.”  When the local werewolf singles her out, Valerie must make an impossible choice.  With a marriage being forced upon her and a true love asking her to run away, Valerie has no one to turn to.  Her father is the town drunk, her mother wants to control her, and the other girls—they quickly turn her in as a witch.  Who will save her?  Or can Valerie save herself?
Review:  I have to admit that I saw the movie trailer first and assumed the movie was being based on a book.  I ran to the bookstore and purchased the book with a big sticker on it that said, “Now a major motion picture from the director of Twilight.”  I wanted to read the book first and then compare it with what looked like would be a better adaptation than Hardwicke had done with Twilight.  In fact, I had read and liked Flinn’s Beastly and was anxious to read this new version of a dark fairytale.
  It wasn’t until I skimmed Hardwicke’s introduction that I realized Red Riding Hood was not only NOT written first, but wasn’t even a movie-to-book story.  It was written during production. Slightly reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s’ collaboration on Space Odyssey 2001 where the screenplay and book were written simultaneously, Blakley-Cartwright’s source material wasn’t solely Johnson’s screenplay nor pouring over a finished movie.  She interviewed actors about their characters, she was there while sets were being built, and costumes were being sewn.  She participated in rehearsals and even danced across hot coals during a village festival scene. 
  The writing is surprisingly good.  Blakley-Carwright’s descriptions are vivid and the emotions she was paid to delve deeper into were present and authentic.  I feel she accomplished what Hardwicke had commissioned her to do.  With the book being tied so intimately with the movie, about half way through I became a trailer junkie.  For me there were no other faces for these characters than the actors already chosen to portray each part. 
  The book was going to be a solid four stars for me – until I reached the end. The book went Hollywood on me.  There is a bit of a bow at the end to tie things up, but it’s not a tidy bow and too many questions are left dangling from the branches of Daggerhorn.  The book then directs you to a website where there is a countdown widget to the movie’s release on March 11, 2011.  Then, in small print, there is an invitation to come back to the website on March 14th, after the movie has opened, to get a “bonus chapter” which will presumably tie up the rest of the loose ends.  At least it had better.
  This is an instance when I’m not sure you gain anything by reading the book first.  As far as I can tell, you’re better off waiting until after the movie comes out so at least you can get the proper ending.  Also, if you like the movie, you can enjoy the more in-depth telling.  If you don’t like the movie, you don’t need to bother with the book because being tied so closely, it’s just more of the same.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Words of Caution: There some violent scenes depicting wolf attacks and the torture of a teen, and a passionate sex scene that is interrupted before it gets very far.

If you like this book try: Beastly or A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn, Beauty by Robin McKinley, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearse, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater 
6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I had some trouble with this one, I love the Little Red Riding hood story and was intrigued by the small village and the wolf attacks, but that ending irritated me on a whole new level! I was not a fan of them not including the full ending until the movie released. Really nice review though Rummanah!

  2. Don't thank me, Jenny. Thank Jules! I didn't have the patience to read it, but Jules was curious enough to read it and needed a way to vent her frustration. Lucky for me!

  3. Jenni Elyse Says:

    So interesting. Thanks for your input, Jule! *waves hi* I'm glad I read this because had I reached the end, I think I would've gone all Kathy Bates on people to demand what happened. :)

  4. Darkeva Says:

    Interesting views, Rummanah :-) I've stumbled along here from the Crazy for Books Friday Follow and thought I'd mention that I really liked the style of this review, because it considers things from many perspectives, and the honesty is also a good trait :-) I'm not really sure what to make of this whole Little Red Riding Hood Hollywood version, because writers have been mining the sexual undertones between the wolf and the girl for, well, since the original fairy tale ;-) But it's interesting because I've not heard of books being written while the movie is being made -- thanks for the tips!


  5. MZMollyTL Says:

    Thanks Jules & Rum for the review. This makes the book very tempting to get, maybe not as a purchase but from the library. Will you be writing a list of YA March Break / Spring Break reads?

  6. Jenni: I had a feeling there was a catch with the movie and book, but I wasn't brave enough to read it. I'm glad that Jules did and had an outlet to vent her frustration!

    Darkeva: All thanks to Jules. I never heard of a book that was based on a movie. It's usually the other way around.

    MZ: I've been giving some thought but I do plan on doing a Spring Break booklist. Stay tuned!

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