New superhero? Little Red Riding Hood already has the cape…
WOW! Little Red Riding Hood nails every plot, and then goes on to own YA Fantasy.
In the early seventies, writer and journalist Christopher Booker started working on a book. Thirty years later, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories was released. It claimed that all plots—from the Bible to a catfood commercial—fall into one (or more) of seven elemental plotlines. Since I was already thinking about today’s book review for an updated YA version of Little Red Riding Hood, I decided to take a look at how well the old fairy tale does with those seven plots. And what the heck…let’s check on how that would fit in with a Young Adult Fantasy Novel while we’re at it.
|Little Red Riding Hood (more or less…)||Seven Basic Plots (source: Wikipedia)||If Little Red Was a YA Novel…|
|Once upon a time, a little girl was given a wonderful basket full of goodies. We’re talking the really good stuff—macarons fresh from Paris, artisan goat cheeses, and a box of special edition Swiss Chocolate Truffles—all done up in a fussy wicker basket from Fortnam & Mason.
Then they told her she had to give it away.
|Rags to Riches—The poor protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, and a mate, before losing it all and gaining it back upon growing as a person.||Red is an orphan, compelled to excel at martial arts by her Granny, who keeps hinting that Red is actually The Chosen One, and who even makes her a special red cape for her secret identity. Red would say that she’s a completely average girl, who just happens to have long red hair, big green eyes, pouty lips, and a black hole of darkness within her very soul. And don’t even get her started on her ridiculously large rack! The way the twins bounce around when she’s doing her sword practice is just ridiculous.|
|“Take these goodies and share them with Granny,” her mother told her. “She lives in a cottage in the woods with 3.2 bathrooms, four bedrooms, plus a spa room with a jacuzzi and home theater. It’s a long hike through the dark forest, though. And along the way you’ll have to watch out for wolves, real estate agents, and Joe the Woodsman who’s been sucking up to Granny lately.”||Voyage and Return—The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to him or her, returns with experience.||Red lives with her stepmother (evil, of course), who plots to get rid of her by sending her on pointless tasks in the middle of the wolf-infested forest. All that changes the day Red accepts her true quest—to finally make it through those woods as The Prophecy predicts. She straps on her sword, packs a goody basket with some throwing stars and her favorite knives, and sets off.|
|“Granny is old and ill, and it’s super important to her to see you just once more before she dies. She’s going to leave that cottage to someone, so you should definitely get your foot in her door before Joe gets his wood in there first.”||The Quest—The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way.||The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of one kickass red-caped heroine and her (snarky, possibly LGBTQ, undoubtedly racially-diverse) posse.|
|“But whatever you do, watch out for the wolf. Wolves are big and bad and spend a lot of time licking their private parts.”
“Gross,” said Little Red. She promised her mother to stick to the straight and narrow path.
|Overcoming the Monster—The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist’s homeland.||There’s a rumor that the sexy new bad boy in Red’s algebra class is a wolf (with a devastating secret, of course). Red feels a strange attraction, although she’s never spoken to a boy with actual facial hair before, so she flicks her long red hair. To make things even more confusing, there’s a tall blond guy named Joe in her woodshop class—also with facial hair—who keeps trying to ask her to the dance. What the heck. She flicks her hair at him too.
|Red skipped along the sunny path, surreptitiously munching on the odd macaron (which she was sure Granny would never miss because she had to peer at everything through those teeny little Granny glasses). Red hadn’t gotten very far when her iPhone dinged. A new friend request from ImaWulf. She checked as her mother had taught her, and noticed that Ima was already Facebook friends with some of her online BFFs including Goldilocks and all three Little Pigs. No sooner had she accepted, than she got a private message. “Thanks for friending! Watcha doin Red? XOXO”
“Goody run to Granny. You?”
“Um…I’m doing a Meals-on-Wheels pickup myself. KetchUp later!”
|Comedy—Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion. (Booker makes sure to stress that comedy is more than humor. It refers to a pattern where the conflict becomes more and more confusing, but is at last made plain in a single clarifying event. Most romances fall into this category.)||But Red doesn’t have time to worry about a date for Homecoming Dance because The Test is coming, probably in Algebra Class. And then she has to save the world, of course.
Nobody ever seems to mention schoolwork, and the only ones who have parents are those with abusive dysfunctional families. Granny, the only sympathetic adult, is captured by Them.
|Sadly, what Red didn’t know was that her new FB friend was none other than the Big Bad Wolf of song, legend, and several Public Service Announcements (which Red actually kind of enjoyed because each one starred some sexy fairy tale guy, usually with some seriously great background rap). Despite the fact that several of the PSAs had specifically warned about Granny-grabbing, Red skipped along happily unaware that BBW had raced ahead and…there’s no other way to say this…eaten Granny. And not in the good way.||Tragedy—The protagonist is a hero with one major character flaw or great mistake which is ultimately their undoing. Their unfortunate end evokes pity at their folly and the fall of a fundamentally ‘good’ character.||Meanwhile the Wolf keeps popping out of the woods to chat up Red. He’s still trying to get into Red’s goodie basket when when Joe shows up waving his axe from woodshop class (luckily, it’s a slightly dull axe because with all their emphasis on college prep classes, the school doesn’t really have a budget for new shop equipment). Joe attacks Wolf from behind, and as he lays bleeding, Red is forced to fight for both of their lives.|
|Little Red Riding Hood arrived at Granny’s house at last, and spent a few minutes taking some outside measurements and mentally restocking the garden. Still, she had to admit there was a lot of curb appeal in the old place. She was a little sorry she’d eaten so many of the macarons, but knocked anyway. Inside, however, it was surprisingly dark, and she wondered if she’d have to redo all the lighting and replace some windows. She could barely make out Granny, but politely mentioned the size and amount of Granny’s teeth, hair, etc. Then she pulled out her Glock (it was easy access under her cape, thanks to her concealed carry permit) and shot Granny through the head because even Red could tell the difference between a little old lady and a big bad wolf. Just then, Joe the Woodsman came running in calling for Granny. Red pointed to the bulge in the Wolf’s tummy, and before she could stop him, he had cut open the wolf. So yeah, that was pretty gross. Like Granny could survive being eaten by a wolf! To their surprise, however, that tummy bulge was actually a baby wolf. Joe the Woodsman delivered the baby wolf and decided to devote the rest of his life to reintroducing wolves into their natural habitats where they wouldn’t be killed at the end of each fairy tale.
Little Red Riding hood slapped a coat of paint over Granny’s cottage and flipped it for a healthy profit, allowing her to move to Paris and set herself up with her own shop, Macarons du Petite Rouge, where she lived happily ever after.
|Rebirth—During the course of the story, an important event forces the main character to change their ways, often making them a better person.||Because Red is a Good Girl, she of course ends up with Wolf, the Bad Boy. After The Kiss (which Red has been thinking about for the past 17 chapters, and which takes an entire chapter to describe including what everybody is smelling), Red ends up going steady with The Wolf, who it turns out, has a Heart of Gold—which was actually very uncomfortable and led to a number of regrettable medical issues as time went on.
But that’s a story for the sequels. All 28 of them.
Of course, if you want to see how a REAL writer takes on a story with a girl, a wolf, and the woods, check out my review below of Shelley Wilson’s Oath Breaker.
Oath Breaker by Shelley Wilson
Will she follow the pack…
Or will she destroy them?
A dead mother.
A violent father.
A missing brother.
When Mia’s father is murdered, it’s her estranged uncle that comes to the rescue, but what he offers her in return for his help could be worse than the life she is leaving behind.
Taken to Hood Academy, a unique school deep in the forest, she discovers friendships, love, and the courage to stand on her own.
As she trains hard, Mia takes the oath that seals her future as a werewolf hunter, but not everyone wants Mia to succeed.
Screams in the night. Secret rooms. Hidden letters. Mia becomes an important piece in a game she doesn’t want to play.
Will the truth set her free, or will it destroy her?
My Review: 5 stars out of 5
When I reviewed Shelley Wilson’s first novel a few years ago, I said she was a writer to watch. I just love it when I’m right! From the absolutely riveting opening scene, Oath Breaker was a page turner I just couldn’t put down.
“Did you see who killed your dad?” Shelley Wilson has always had a gift for world building, and right from the very first scene, Oath Breaker is no exception. The description of the horror and destruction Mia has just experienced is compelling. But what grips the reader is the realization that there is so much more going on here than Mia reveals to the police responding at the scene.
We soon find that Mia is a sixteen year old girl, now orphaned, after the earlier death of her mother and gruesome murder of her father. What Mia doesn’t tell the police is that the ‘murderer’ was a gigantic wolf. Although Mia hopes to find her older brother who disappeared years earlier, she is instead given into the custody of her enigmatic uncle Sebastian, who mysteriously appears at the murder scene although it takes him over a day to drive back to his home with Mia. That home turns out to be the school he runs for girls like Mia who are ‘gifted’ with the ability to see and thus to hunt werewolves.
Despite a lifetime of abandonment and mistrust, Mia finds herself drawn to her new roommate Elizabeth (and by default to Elizabeth’s secret boyfriend Adam), and even more confusingly to werewolf contacts outside of the school. As she masters the martial arts and techniques of a werewolf hunter with mystifying speed, Mia also must negotiate the much more difficult world of a girls school, with all the inherently bitchiness and surprising feminine support that entails. But before Mia can accept friendship or love, she needs to unravel the biggest problem of all—who she is, what really happened to her family, and most importantly, what she is.
So far, this is all a fairly standard YA novel meets Little Red Riding Hood. Mia keeps finding herself wandering in strange woods, at the mercy of wolves, and trying to navigate the path taking her to a loving family. In Mia’s case, though, that family has a tendency to turn into monsters. The thing is that sometimes the monsters walk on two feet and are dressed up to look like the ones who are supposed to love you.
Oath Breaker is a quick read, mostly because you just don’t want to put it down. Mia’s crabby, distrustful persona can’t hide the girl inside trying to get free, and trying to believe in friendship and love. That conflict informs every interaction, and infuses this action-driven story with a coming-of-age level of growth and character development.
There might have been one or two points where the action faltered or took a misstep—for example, the phrase “Like something out of a macabre horror show” pulls the reader OUT of an otherwise perfect description of a scene that completely portrays that on its own merits. But for the most part, that’s overwhelmed in general by the excellent writing which paints terrific word pictures, and in particular by the character of Mia herself, who tells us that to survive “I became a ghost”—and then takes us along as the ghost becomes a painfully three-dimensional teenaged girl.
I think Oath Breaker is Shelley Wilson’s best book by far, and don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a fast-paced, excellently written young adult novel. My only complaint is that I want to find out what happens to Mia and her friends, and it’s SO hard to wait! (Hint, hint Shelley…)
Book Title: Oath Breaker
Author: Shelley Wilson
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Length: 233 pages
Publisher: BHC Press/H2O (June 6, 2017)
Contact and Buy Links: