WARNING: There are many things discussed in this post that could be triggering to some people including rape, sex, and violence. Please read with caution and I advise 16+ only.
For anyone that has been following the last few posts I am sure you can tell I am on a bit of a fairytale streak and loving it. Judging from the cover of this book, Red Hood, and its title I completely thought I was continuing this. To be truthful, I rarely read the book description or back cover after initially purchasing it, and then it goes into my To Be Read pile for random selection. So when I started reading it. . . well it was not what I was expecting. This is my sole vow to always be honest with you, reader. If I had known what this book was actually about and all that it entailed, I probably would not have chosen it. In the political world today, as messy as it is, when I read I like to escape, not dregs up my emotions or God forbid have to think too hard about anything. This book and its author Elena K. Arnold made me think, and more importantly, realize. Elena K. Arnold is not an author I had ever heard of before Red Hood and have not yet read another’s work that compares.
Bisou Martel is a vibrant introvert who finds herself in a situation that she never imagined she would be after a night of joyful teenage revelry. When she finds herself alone in the wood and face to face with a wolf. Against all odds, her body seems to know what to do, and defending herself she battles the wolf and walks away victorious. At first, Bisou comes across as shy, and more comfortable being alone than in a crowd. Yet as the story progresses you see that is how she was raised to be and not her true self. To start Bisou pushes every except for her grandmother Meme away, but by the end of the book, she has surrounded herself, unintentionally, with a ride-or-die bad of other young women. (And holy cow do I mean ride or die, they assist with and conceal not just one but three dead bodies in just the span of the book!) Only once allowing these girls in does she realize that this was not only what she wanted, but needed all along. Not an agonizingly sweet boyfriend, or a strong male protector, nope just some kick-ass girlfriends who have her back; no matter what. Bisou is definitely a character who comes into her own and blossoms once she comes to grips with the destiny she chooses to accept. If I could just sit down with any of the characters for a drink or lunch it would absolutely be Meme though! She and I would get along perfectly I think. She drinks loads of tea, bakes homemade bread, is a writer, and also a sweet loving badass grandma who also happens to work at the local library. I mean, I kind of hope to be her when I get old and grey, not gonna lie!
Okay so now for the really serious topics, because man does this book embrace them. Nowadays it is so easy to find examples of misrepresented and even toxic feminism. Those of course seem to be the examples pointed out and spread as a show of how ‘bad’ feminists are and discredit the real issues that need to be fixed and that still plague women today. This book is one that you read and it changes your worldview and opens your eyes. Things that have become so ‘normal’ that don’t even cross your radar or things that are deemed humor-worthy or just a straight-up joke. The way that they are pointed out in the book is so perfect because it makes you sit up and go, hey now that is not okay. Though the villains in the story are wolves, the issues that the girls, Bisou and her friends Keisha and Maggie, face are real-world issues for girls and women everywhere. Such as making excuses for the girls that are found mauled in the wood; rumors spread like she was walking in the woods alone at night. What did she expect? Didn’t she know better? Or even going so far as to lessen the pain of her death because she had been ‘dating around’ or ‘dressed inappropriately’. (Sidebar: The only time I want to hear that excuse of someone's death being caused by what they were wearing is if they are found walking around in Antarctica in a bikini, okay??) But you are getting the analogy to a legit problem in today’s society, right? While the stigma of rape victims and victims, in general, has gotten a little better in the last decade and making large strides especially in just the last couple of years, IT IS STILL A PROBLEM! Growing up in a household of all females aside from my dad, certain things became ingrained in us. Lock your car the second you get in. Never walk alone, day or night. Tell someone where you are going always. Have something ready to protect yourself whether it is mace or even just your keys. Always be aware of your surroundings and never distract yourself if you do happen to be somewhere alone. The list honestly could go on and on. What is even crazier, compared to most, we live in an exceptionally safe town! Only once I was married did the realization come that boys did not have to worry about things like that almost ever. If they wanted to go to Walmart at 2 am for a snack (Come on, we have all done it.) they don’t have to scan the parking lot for the perfect spot with no other vehicles around, under a light, preferably under the watchful eye of a camera, and a quick dash distance to the entry door. Revolutionary. Then God forbid, the terrifying thing does happen and you are raped or killed and people have the audacity to blame you?? Hell. No. In the world of Bisou and her friends, they fight back against the wolves, banding together and doing what they can to protect all of the people that they can. I feel like the book could have been longer, just because there were a lot of unanswered questions, but honestly, the way the author left it is in such a way that you can fill in the blanks with your imagination and reasons.
Like I started out saying, this book is a new one for me. They did not shy away from hard topics and instead embraced them and gave them their own platform in this tale. Things like menstruation, sex, rape, orgasms, STI’s, penises, vaginas, and more are all free-range and widely talked about throughout, all without any sort of trying to brush it under a rug or pretending it doesn’t exist. Instead, they held it up to the light for everyone to see. Even as a woman, I found it hard not to cringe at some of the blunt descriptions, but then I realized how stupid that was and by the end was unfazed and embracing the openness. This book for sure has given me a ton to think about, clearly from the length of this post, but this is one that I was pleasantly surprised by and will be adding to my reread shelf as I have no doubts that this book has more to teach me.
There is so freaking much more I could go into about this book, but I will let you read it yourself and comment below if you have read it and what your thoughts were!
Once upon a time, just hours ago, the doorbell rang.
Through the lenses, the world blurs for you. Strange how a thing can strengthen one person and weaken another.
The writer's job is to pay attention. And to not shy away from the best and the worst. To reveal truth, in lies.
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Not me. Fuck the wolf.
Stay awesome and spread the light!