A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about the incel phenomenon (men or boys who who define themselves as "involuntary celibates," who have no sex life and blame girls/women for that), as well as tangible ways to fight sexism and misogyny (the dislike of or prejudice against of women).
There's nothing inherently embarrassing or shameful about menstruation. It's not a girl's job to make boys happy. Making one mistake doesn't oblige you to make another in the same direction. Stick up for others and interrupt bad behavior, especially if doing so costs you little. There's power in a group of women friends. When it comes to sex, you don't have to do anything you don't want, even with a trusted partner. You can heal from trauma.
Positive Role Models
Bisou, who's 16, is a thoughtful person and fierce protector. Boyfriend James is kind and respectful. Friends Keisha and Maggie are smart and loyal. Bisou's grandmother, Mémé, is a tough-as-nails feminist who's a great role model for Bisou and her girlfriends. All survivors of male violence, the women band together to create positive change. Bisou and Mémé read as White, Keisha appears to be Black, James has light-brown skin, and secondary characters reflect a similar diversity.
Violence & Scariness
In dark woods, wolves attack girls and Bisou kills them with whatever she has on hand: sticks, her hands, a small scythe that hides in a necklace when not in use. Mémé throws an axe at a wolf, injuring it. Wolf attacks/killings are bloody or gruesome.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Bisou and James have consensual and loving sex (including oral sex) several times, described in some detail.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A party scene shows drinking and pot smoking, none to excess. Sporadic references to past drinking and drug use.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Red Hood, by award-winning author Elana K. Arnold (Damsel), is an unapologetically feminist twist on the classic fairy tale. Bisou, a girl in a red hooded sweatshirt, discovers she has the instincts and strength to stop boys from hurting the young women they prey upon. Positive messages are decidedly women-centric, emphasizing menstruation as shame-free, consensual sex as a norm, and the power of camaraderie between women. Characters are racially diverse, and Bisou's circle of girlfriends are admirable and fierce. James is a feminist model for young men. There is violence: In Bisou's traumatic childhood and in the girls' experiences with boys in high school. In several bloody scenes, Bisou kills wolves who are on the attack, using sticks, her own hands, and a special necklace that hides a scythe. Bisou and James engage in consensual sex, described in some detail. Characters swear regularly, including "s--t" and "f--k." One party scene includes non-excessive alcohol and marijuana use by minors.
Is It Any Good?
This absorbing, gorgeously written novel both challenges and inspires readers. An early sex scene and extended descriptions of Bisou's first period may cause even strident feminists discomfort. But the underlying messages are that joyous sex between consenting teens is sometimes a healthy part of growing up and that menstruation is not inherently shameful. Readers are rewarded with lyrical prose and a magical story that affirms the power we can find in one another. Though trauma and threat of male violence is ever-present, it's inspiring to see the characters overcome their troubles.
The narrator uses "you," which effectively puts the reader in Bisou's shoes, but it may take some getting used to, and inserted poems have no context until late in the story. But aside from these small hiccups,Red Hood is a truly satisfying read. While teen readers will benefit from learning about the timely problem of toxic masculinity, they will also enjoy the twist on the classic fairy tale and remember the fierce women characters (and the men who support them) long after turning the last page.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate