The Girl in Red


Christina Henry


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

September 16, 2019

he Girl in Red is set in a classic science-fiction environment: a post apocalyptic Earth, where 95% of humanity has perished. The deadly Cough Virus has spread across the earth. It is virulent, and it is lethal. The fatality rate is incredible, most of humanity is already dead when we meet Cordelia (nickname: Red). Red is traveling alone in the woods, in a precarious world. From the the first chapter, Henry shows us just how dangerous this post-apocalyptic world can be. But Henry also shows how fierce and determined Red becomes when faced with a dire situation.

Red is a great character. She has seen all the horror movies, where the silly teenagers split up and get picked off by the monster one-by-one - that's not going to happen to her! Likewise, Red knows what happens to the unprepared, so she is ultra-prepared - a backpack loaded with the most essential survival gear. I liked how Red explained multiple-times - I'm not going to make THAT obvious mistake, and then she goes out of her way to make a safer route. Red is twenty years old, and really smart. (Unfortunately, she is portrayed as TOO smart on one occasion when a conversation with an army officer makes her sound like PhD biologist)>

Given this gritty determination to be pragmatic and cautious - Red wears a bright red hoodie on her trek through the woods - huh? This contradiction bothered me every time it was mentioned. How can I take seriously Red's pronouncements about how careful and safe she is acting, when she is wearing a bright red sweatshirt that stands out in the forest like a bright flare? The reason the author makes Red wear the stupid red hoodie is because she wants the book to be subtitled A Retelling of the Classic Tale of Little Red Riding Hood. This is not a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. The Red Riding Hood wore a bright red cape and carried a basket full of goodies, the characters she encountered - the Huntsman, the Wolf, and Grandma, do not appear in this novel. I can't fathom why Henry thought it was necessary to cram the square peg (Red wearing the bright red hoodie) into the round hole (Red's careful personality). Why is Henry so determined to have this book proclaimed as remake of Little Red Riding Hood? It would be a better story without the red hood.

Red and her brother Adam venture out into the dangerous woods after the death of their parents due to the Cough Virus. (Hey, two orphans get lost in the woods - this book is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel! Sure, there is no candy house and no witch, but close enough, right?) Adam is the older brother, but he is the opposite of Red when it comes to caution and preparedness. Adam, in fact, is downright infuriating at times, but Red's character shows through - she won't abandon him, no matter how much he slows them down or the silly mistakes he makes when it comes to preparedness or difficult situations.

The pace of The Girl in Red is good. Once I started reading it, I kept picking it up and continuing to read the next night. (Often times, I read multiple books at a time. I can't explain why I do this. But the books that have great momentum get picked up again until they are finished. The Girl in Red is an after-the-apocalpyse story, so that's always fun. The Cough Virus is lethal - what were it's origins? Was it in a bioweapon? Disappointingly, this question is never answered. Soldiers from the government try to round up all the surviving citizens to bring them to containment camps - for everyone's own safety, though this seems like an odd strategy when their is an easily transmitted virus in the air. Wouldn't a better strategy be for the soldiers to ensure everyone is spread out? Red doesn't trust the soldiers, and so finds herself hiding from them as well the various nasty rogues who are also trying to survive.

The reason this book gets only three stars is because I think Henry really botches her apocalypse. Stop reading this review right here if you don't want to know a big spoiler.


For some reason, partway through the novel, Henry decides that the Cough Virus isn't scary enough. Henry wants Red to wield her axe, and you can't axe a virus. So suddenly victims of the virus don't just fall prey to coughing themselves to death, now, Henry steals the idea from the Alien movie series. Yes, people who catch the virus start to have fierce monsters burst out their stomachs in bloody fashion. This was tremendously disappointing to read. The Cough Virus is scary, it is an invisible killer. A monster bursting out of the stomach is trite. It seemed to be added solely for visual effect (is Henry hoping for a movie contract?), but it is such a ripoff that is was disheartening. I downgraded this book to three stars, and I am not interested in reading any further works by Henry. Not even if she writes an apocalyptic retelling of Hansel and Gretel.