As promised in my genre mashup post here, my next review is by Shelley Wilson, who rewards readers who’ve been waiting (impatiently, in my case at least!) for the sequel to her YA paranormal superhero coming of age romance Oath series with her new release, Oath Keeper. Worth the wait!
This genre mashup is a wonderful example of the trope definer: the fairy tale. As a lead to my review of Oath Breaker, the first book in this little series, I compared it to Little Red Riding Hood, and I hope you won’t mind a repeat of that intro.
New superhero? Little Red Riding Hood already has the cape…
WOW! Little Red Riding Hood nails every genre, 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 upcoming release, Oath Keeper.
My Review: 5 stars out of 5 for Oath Keeper (Hood Academy Book 2) by Shelley Wilson
Almost by definition, a YA novel is a coming of age story. But author Shelley Wilson adds a twist, both to its Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale roots and to the genre itself. What if the Big Bad Wolf is just misunderstood? And what if the ones who look like you are actually… well, bad in a big way?
All her life, Mia Roberts, has only wanted to fit in, to belong. In her almost seventeen years, Mia was on the outside, growing up without a mother, victim of an abusive father, abandoned by the big brother she idolized. Her story in Book 1 began with, “Did you see who killed your dad?” Her father Frank’s horrifying death—his throat ripped out by a giant wolf—is only the beginning of Mia’s new search for a place she belongs. An uncle she never knew becomes her guardian, and Mia attempts to fit in at an extraordinary school–for werewolf hunters.
Of course, you could skip Book 1 and get the quick summary in the three extraordinary paragraphs of the Prologue. Don’t go there. To understand the nuances of the relationships between Mia, her best friend Elizabeth, boyfriend Cody, and most of all the two men she’s most closely related to—her uncle Sebastian and brother Zak—you owe it to yourself to read Book 1. Oath Keeper picks up Mia’s story only to have her once again an outsider. This time she’s left her fellow student Hunters to join her brother Zak’s werewolf pack. Only…Mia hasn’t changed into a wolf, something most pack member manage at early adolescence. Once again, she feels others are judging her, undermining her relationship with boyfriend Cody, and questioning her right to remain with the pack.
Then her best friend is taken prisoner, and in trying to rescue her, Mia uncovers a horrific conspiracy that undermines both Hunters and Wolves. Everyone and everything she loves is at stake, but this is a much different Mia from the girl we met at the beginning of Book 1. “I didn’t want them to think I was weak in any way because I wasn’t . I’d survived so much, and none of them ever gave me the credit I deserved…” The lesson Mia learns is that sometimes what makes you different becomes your strength.
There are so many things I loved about this book. Instead of embracing Joseph Campbell’s iconic steps of the hero’s journey, author Shelley Wilson’s approach is much closer to the female heroine’s path described by Maureen Murdock. Mia does, in fact, begin her journey by entering the masculine worlds dominated first by her uncle, and then by her brother. But success in those worlds is empty, and Mia must reconnect with her feminine core. Instead of the hero’s “Luke, I am your father” moment, Mia connects both with a long-dead mother and a mother-figure mentor in Miss Ross from the Hunter’s school.
As Mia finally embraces her differences—“My skills were unique, and I took a tremendous amount of pride in being different”—she steps into an adult world where she finally belongs. In her Oath series, author Shelley Wilson also comes full circle as a writer, creating a confident and believable world for Mia’s heroic coming of age journey.
She chose the pack. But does the pack still want her?
Mia Roberts is struggling to fit in with the Ravenshood pack. Although her brother is an alpha, he’s not even convinced she has the werewolf gene. If she’s not a wolf or a hunter, then what is she?The answers lie inside Hood Academy. But when children in the wolf community start shifting too soon, Mia worries that her hunter father may be responsible.
She wants to help her pack, but she also needs answers. Can she keep her brother from killing her father long enough to find out who she really is?
Loyalty, friendships, and family bonds are tested as Mia steps into her power and discovers her true identity.