Taken at face value, I’d have rated this book 3 out of 5 stars instead of 4. The prose is alright. It conveys the story well but doesn’t bring a lot of depth to the characters. I did however find the premise brilliant and ludicrous at the same time. Such blatant discrimination fuelled by appearances alone isn’t normal, or is it? Yet live in the shadow of their appearances all these blondes and brunettes living in Scarletville must. Except Felicity. She’s been getting her hair dyed since she was two years old. Extreme? Yes! Necessary? Maybe.
Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.
Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:
I know your secret.
Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say “strawberry blond.” Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.
Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?
It’s this caricature of life in Scarletville that I enjoyed. Redheads had priority in everything. Felicity was so used to this, she couldn’t imagine that outside of her little town in Iowa, things were different. Redheads did not rule the world. She was also afraid of being seen with non-redheads. There was a stigma attached even by association for being friends with non-redheads. Redheads were exclusive.
Basically, I enjoyed the premise because I think it sheds light onto how we lead our lives. While no explicit connections were made, I do think that this book could serve as a commentary on race relations. I see it all the time, people judging others because of their race/ how they look. I’ve even experienced it myself, others assuming I’m of their race/ ethnicity, for example, but dishonouring their culture. And children even, refusing to be friends with particular children because they weren’t of the same race. In a way, this book was reminiscent of my own experiences.
This is why, taken as satire, I think this is a very good book. I read an interview with Cherry about how she didn’t originally intend to write a satirical book or make any social commentaries but her editor pointed out these elements to her. Still, author intentions aside, Red was an entertaining read even when seen as realistic fiction because some of the events were just so hilarious and almost out of this world due to all that naïvety of the characters. I found it precious how close-minded many of them could be, when they were so sure of their worldliness. Scarletville isn’t the world but to them it sure was.