Book Discussion Book Reviews Joint Review Smuggler Specialties YA Appreciation Month 2010

Book Discussion: Why We Didn’t Like Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Title: Sisters Red

Author: Jackson Pearce

Genre: YA/UF

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Book/ Little, Brown
Publication Date: June 2010
Hardcover: 352 pages

The story of Scarlett and Rosie March, two highly-skilled sisters who have been hunting Fenris (werewolves) – who prey on teen girls – since Scarlett lost her eye years ago while defending Rosie in an attack. Scarlett lives to destroy the Fenris, and she and Rosie lure them in with red cloaks (a colour the wolves can’t resist), though Rosie hunts more out of debt to her sister than drive.

But things seem to be changing. The wolves are getting stronger and harder to fight, and there has been a rash of news reports about countless teenage girls being brutally murdered in the city. Scarlett and Rosie soon discover the truth: wolves are banding together in search of a Potential Fenris – a man tainted by the pack but not yet fully changed. Desperate to find the Potential to use him as bait for a massive werewolf extermination, the sisters move to the city with Silas, a young woodsman and long time family friend who is deadly with an axe. Meanwhile, Rosie finds herself drawn to Silas and the bond they share not only drives the sisters apart, but could destroy all they’ve worked for.

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Sisters Red series.

How did we get this book: We got ARCs from Little, Brown.

Why did we read this book: We have been waiting to read this book for ages – the cover is striking and the we are always up for a fairytale retelling.

Ana’s take:


I could tell you that for the first pages of this book I was completely engrossed in the story. How could I not? I mean, a dark, violent even, retelling of Red Riding Hood in which two sisters are the hunters who kill the wolves? I am in. It helps that the first pages were very gripping: back in the past when the kids lived with their grandmother and were attacked by a passing werewolf and Scarlett, the oldest sister, protects the younger Rosie almost to her own death losing an eye in the fight and becoming scarred for life. Then, as teenagers they fall in the roles that they have taken for themselves that day: Scarlett, the protector, Rosie the protégée – both equally fierce Hunters but with a striking difference. Scarlett sees nothing but the hunt, Rosie wants something else for her life.

I could tell you that I like the prose. But also that the tale and the alternating chapters between the two sisters get repetitive very soon. I could tell you that when the next door neighbour, a woodsman-hunter named Silas comes back to town that I knew Rosie would fall for him and that their story was actually quite sweet.

I could definitely tell you that part of what makes me like the book to begin with is the fact that making the two girls the ones who go after the werewolves to kill them is rather an empowering take on the original tale.

I could tell you all that.

But what I really want to tell you is: when I hit page 108 (of the ARC) I went nuts. You see, it is part of this retelling that the werewolves are predators who are after young, pretty girls. As part of their hunting routine, Rosie will dress up, put on make-up and perfume (because she usually doesn’t do that as she is a “natural beauty”). Obviously, Scarlett, being the ugly, scarred sister, just sits back to attack when Rosie has played the role of prey. So, page 108. Scarlett is outside a nightclub observing the girls in the queue to get in:

They’re adorned in glittery green rhinestones, shimmery turquoise and aquamarine powders streaked across their eyelids. Dragonfly girls. Their hair is all the same, long and streaked, spiralling down their backs to where the tiny strings holding their tops on are knotted tightly. Their skin glows under the neon lights – amber, ebony, cream – like shined metal, flawless and smooth. I press harder against the crumbly brick wall behind me, tugging my crimson cloak closer to my body. The scars on my shoulders show through fabric when I pull the cloak tight. Bumpy red hills in perfectly spaced lines.

The Dragonflies laugh, sweet, and bubbly, and I groan in exasperation. They toss their hair, stretch their legs, sway their hips, bat their eyes at the club’s bouncer, everything about them luring the Fenris. Inviting danger like some baby animal bleating its fool head off. Look at me, see how I dance, did you notice my hair, look again, desire me, I am perfect. Stupid, stupid Dragonflies. Here I am, saving your lives, bitten and scarred and wounded for you, and you don’t even know it. I should let the Fenris have one of you.

No, I didn’t mean that. I sigh and walk to the other side of the brick wall, letting my fingers tangle in the thick ivy. It’s dark on this side, shadowed from the neon lights of the street. I breathe slowly, watching the tree limbs sway, backlit by the lights of skyscrapers. Of course I didn’t mean it. Ignorance is no reason to die. They can’t help what they are, still happily unaware inside a cave of fake shadows. They exist in a world that’s beautiful normal, where people have jobs and dreams that don’t involve a hatcher. My world is parallel universe to their – the same sights, same people, same city, yet the Fenris lurk, the evil creeps, the knowledge undeniably exists. If I hadn’t been thrown into this world, I could just as easily have been a Dragonfly.

I felt extremely uncomfortable with this passage, but as much as this is some serious twisted thinking, I can understand Scarlett feeling this way. She is an angry character, full of regret, jealousy – and being scarred and ugly does get to her (seeing as how she keeps going on and on about it). So, the text above is in keeping with this character.


Two lines down and Silas joins her as she observes him:

His eyes narrow in something between disgust and intrigue, as though he’s not certain if he likes looking at them or not. I want to comment, but I stay quiet. Somehow it feels important to wait for his reaction. Silas finally turns to look at me in the shadows.

“It’s like they’re trying to be eaten, isn’t it? he asks pointedly.

“Can I tell you how glad I am that and Rosie aren’t like them?”

“No kidding.” I grin, relieved. “Rosie could be if she wanted, though. She’s beautiful like they are.”

“Beauty has nothing to do with it. Rosie could never be one of them. Do you really think they’d dress and act like that if they knew it was drawing wolves toward them?”


By then, I was beyond uncomfortable, I was downright angry. The meta is thus: the girls should know better. If they knew better, they would change their behaviour and would not be attacked. This is what I read. But this is not what I should be reading.

NEVER, EVER blame the victims. The blame always, always lies with the criminal (or predator).

And just like that I am done with the book. Because I can’t respect the characters who think like this, because I lost respect for their motivation for being hunters (it’s not about REALLY about protecting the girls is it? It is almost about proving a point) and if I can’t relate with their plight then the book is nothing to me. Because the bottom line is this: the book empowers women yes, but ONLY certain types of girls, not all of them. And I am sick and tired of books that associate girls that are self-confident and beautiful with being shallow and superficial and deserving of bad things happening to them. SICK AND TIRED.

That is not ok. And I suggest you read the article in this link to see why exactly I think it is not ok.

I did read till the bitter end in the hopes that another character would come in and say: “yo, stewpid, GET A GRIP” but alas, no such thing has happened. I can’t even be bothered to rate this book. I will only say:


Thea’s Take:

Clearly, Ana feels VERY strongly about this book, especially about the excerpt above. Now, I’ll admit that when I first read this passage, I didn’t immediately see what Ana picked up on. I tend to get annoyed with flitty girls in general, and Scarlett’s anger at the “dragonflies” seems well-founded and in line with her character, regardless of whether I liked her character or not. As a scarred, bitter young woman dedicated to destroying all Fenris at any cost, this sort of thought process makes perfect sense for someone like Scarlett.

But then, after Ana pointed out the next section, it made me think about the overall message…and I stand firmly with Ana. Enraged.

Just because a girl is pretty, and likes to look pretty; just because a girl goes out to the club in revealing clothes; just because a girl likes the attention that comes with being young and attractive, this DOES NOT MEAN she is stupid, or a whore, or fucking “asking for it” (pardon my French, but this is a disgusting mindset and pisses me off to no end). It is frustrating – no, infuriating – beyond belief that the women in Sisters Red are so stereotyped and marginalized. Don’t get me wrong – I love warrior women/strong women/badass fighter women, as much as the next person. But this gross generalization that girls that go out to have fun and be noticed are somehow billions of times inferior to their too-tough-to-look-pretty (but OF COURSE are effortlessly gorgeous *eyes rolling*) counterparts?

Nu-uh. Not cool.

Now, you might be telling yourself, ‘well, these two seem to be taking a single passage a bit far’ or something to that end. Well, folks, unfortunately Sisters Red has a whole lot of other problems too.

1: The characters are mind-numbingly repetitive and boring.

Initially, I found a lot to like with Sisters Red. The opening scene with Grandma valiantly holding off the big bad wolf to save the children, and then Scarlett’s desperate last stand to save Rosie, is EPIC. I loved that Scarlett is abrasive and tough, that she’s missing an eye and is both terrified of the wolves, yet completely in love with the hunt. I love that Rosie is a different person – that she cannot remember the past too clearly, and that she clearly loves Lett, but needs to grow to be her own person.

BUT. All of this? All this promising characterization is exhausted in the first thirty or so pages of the book. From then on it is more of. the. same. Scarlett gets mad at Rosie for being careless. Scarlett goes hunting for Fenris. Scarlett gets mad again and wallows in her pit of eternal self-suffering. Meanwhile, Rosie wants to be taken seriously (and thinks Silas is freaking HAWT). But she wants to be taken seriously. She tries to make peace with Scarlett (and Silas is HAWT). And so on and so forth.

Things get pretty dull, pretty quickly. These characters never felt real to me – more like your standard cardboard stand-ins. (Just because characters are “troubled” doesn’t immediately mean they are well-developed. SHOW me. Don’t keep TELLING me.)

2: The “Romance” is the same predictable uninspired tripe.

From the second Rosie sees Silas, and vice versa, it’s all “he looks different, his jaw is so angular and manly!” and “she looks different, all ‘grown up’ and beautiful!” (I’m paraphrasing of course). To be honest, I’m sick of it. Could this book just have been about the sisters without one of them needing the catalyst of falling in love with the studly boy next door? ARGH.

Of course, this could just be me and how burned out I am with YA paranormal romance. Lots of people love this stuff. I, unfortunately, am at the end of my rope.

3: The hunting element of the story is STUPID.

*Caps lock engaged* WHY THE HELL WOULD THESE SISTERS BE HUNTING WITH HATCHETS AS OPPOSED TO…I don’t know…GUNS?!??? If Scarlett’s true ambition is to take out every single “Fenris” on the planet, wouldn’t it make sense to take out a bunch of them with a semi-automatic weapon, as opposed to the good ol’ woodsman hatchet technique? And while scampering around in a blood red cloak is awesome and all, this book doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The story takes place in MODERN DAY. The red riding hood cloaks, while they go great with the idea of the story, aren’t exactly…congruous with the time period. (Not to mention, you’d think the stupid wolves would remember two chicks – one with an eyepatch – hunting around not-so-incognito in bright red cloaks)

Also, in my opinion the term “Fenris” is stupid. Is it plural? Singular? Yeah, yeah, I get that it derives from Fenrir – but “Fenris” just looks stupid and forced to me. If you’re going with Norse mythology, stick with the root name. (That is, if you’re not going with the more familiar “werewolf” terminology, which doesn’t make sense in the first place given how much more prevalent “werewolf” is in modern vernacular!)

These were my issues with Sisters Red – which arose long before the club scene – and they were enough to make me put down the book.

Verdict: DNF – Life is too short to force myself to finish books that don’t work for me.

You want a good Red Riding Hood retelling? Stick with Bill Willingham’s Fables series. Now THAT has solid characterizations, a plot that won’t quit, and empowered characters – both male and female.

Reading next: A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott


  • Aja
    July 29, 2010 at 12:27 am

    And I am sick and tired of books that associate girls that are self-confident and beautiful with being shallow and superficial and deserving of bad things happening to them. SICK AND TIRED.

    YES, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, so much.

    I was really looking forward to reading this and now I honestly won’t be going near it.

    The thing about rape culture is that there’s this idea that a girl is lucky if she doesn’t get raped. And it’s SO pervasive that we all start with this idea that the default behavior is “GIRLS GETTING RAPED.” So we then are like, oh, well, if a girl wears certain clothes, doesn’t drink at parties, doesn’t walk alone at parties, then if she’s *lucky*, and if she’s *smart* and *conservative* enough, then maybe she won’t get raped! FAIL.

    How about, you know, teaching*offenders* not to rape people??? Or to play with the allegory, blaming the werewolves for preying on people, regardless of what they’re wearing! And I’m not even going into how gendered this is, and how it erases male rape and transgender rape by assuming that there’s a default gender/appearance/behavior set for what “avoiding getting raped” looks like.

    Also, this idea that the attractive sister is *luring* the werewolf into attacking her with that pretty (slutty) red cloak–only to turn around and kill them; it’s empowering on one level, but on another level it’s representing female sexuality as dangerous and deadly, and that presentation also feeds into the ‘girls deserve what they get’ idea.

    Just. NO on every level.

  • Erika (Jawas Read, Too)
    July 29, 2010 at 12:27 am

    I read this very differently than you did and saw some of the more positive aspects of the book, but! I do pointedly remember the passage you pick out (the second one) and being very, very confused. I re-read it to make sure I wasn’t misreading it as I tend to read until I zonk out, but in the end, I do feel bad for not remembering to include my response to that passage in my review.

    I’ve still been a bit conflicted over how I feel, months after finishing. Your review reminds me that there were some things in the book that did not sit well with me and I think still do not sit well with me. :\

  • Renay
    July 29, 2010 at 1:50 am

    When I saw the screenshot you shared on Twitter, I could not believe what I was seeing. Shock, but not surprise, because gee, hello there rape culture, nice to see you again! I am so disappointed that this exists.

    YES, SILAS. I have not even met you yet, but I sure am glad you took the time to mansplain yourself. Now feel free to walk off a cliff.

  • Kate
    July 29, 2010 at 2:47 am

    I understand your way of thinking and I have to admit when I read it I did not even think of that interpretation. What I thought of was Scarlett being jealous. She is disfigured and is obviously jealous of her sister and others who are just pretty. When people are jealous they do say things and feel things that aren’t always appropriate.

    And I think when Silas said something, it was more to get a rise from Scarlett, he probably saw the way that she was looking at the girls.

    Everyone is free to their own opinions. I just never thought of these passages being so negative, I was more on Scarlett’s side thinking that she wanted to be like them but couldn’t.

  • KMont
    July 29, 2010 at 3:19 am

    I thought the picture of the excerpt that you underlined, shown on Twitter, was from The Dark Divine. Knew different when I saw this post’s header.

    Hmmm. This is all too bad. I was really interested in reading this one.

    I’m curious if that aspect of the book changed at all. Do either of you feel that it’s possible to turn that kind of scenario around, blaming the women as was highlighted above? Have either of you read a book where that kind of thing was turned around, and the book improved? In other words, where it was used as, say, a character growth element.

  • Amy
    July 29, 2010 at 3:25 am

    Great point about the ‘asking for it’ thing. Kinda turned my stomach as well. I still enjoyed the rest of the story though. I’ve been noticing more and more now that I am paying attention the lack of healthy relationships and / or gender ideas in young adult paranormal.

  • Ana
    July 29, 2010 at 3:27 am

    I’m curious if that aspect of the book changed at all. Do either of you feel that it’s possible to turn that kind of scenario around, blaming the women as was highlighted above? Have either of you read a book where that kind of thing was turned around, and the book improved? In other words, where it was used as, say, a character growth element.

    Nope, it didn’t change at all, this is why I stuck to it till the end. I think yes, it can be turned around – if it is one character that thinks like this, it could be part of this character’s change/growing up. I think it can, at least – I mean, people can change and learn and become AWARE of these issues so why not characters in a book? It can also NOT be turned around at all but be a part of of the story itself. People are flawed, as long as it is CLEARLY shown as a part of a flawed character?

    As long as it is not a pervasive part of the


    – which I think is what happens in this book.

    I can’t remember of a particular example though.

  • Estara
    July 29, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Nice set-down. :mrgreen:

    Two things sprang to my mind: I have heard good things about Jim Hines and his take on female fairy-tale characters and he’s got an assassin Little Red Riding Hood, so not too shabby.
    Red Hood’s Revenge.

    Regarding rape apologism I was recently linked to this very valid article about Nice Guys and why they can be toxic: Nice Guys and Behavioural Conditioning

  • Ana
    July 29, 2010 at 3:46 am

    Estara – I actually thought about Jim Hines and I LOVE his series. the only reason I didn’t was because I am yet to read the latest one about Red Hood so didn’t feel I could but I am sure it is going to be awesome! 😀

  • kg
    July 29, 2010 at 3:46 am

    It’s always good to see the occasional review that manages to say something completely different from what the mainstream reviews are saying. Thank you for writing this, and for showing an important viewpoint of the scene outside the club. Ana, good comments on the subtleties of rape culture.

    When I read this book, I felt that one of the great aspects was the honesty and transparency with which the thoughts of the characters were conveyed. I had imagined that part of Scarlett’s hero complex required a feeling of distance from and perhaps even vain superiority to those she was rescuing, and it’s certainly on display in that scene. Part of Scarlett’s development in the story is to respect other modes of living; though I doubt that she will ever have much respect for those she calls “dragonfly girls”.

    In some sense she’s not a perfect hero. As pointed out here, she’s condescending and blaming of the victims. I even got the feeling that her crusade is less about saving others and is instead very personal, and that grisly hand-to-hand combat with the traditional red-riding hood hatchet gives her release and satisfaction.

    Thea, I have a personal bias toward love stories, and feel that all good stories are love stories. But I felt like the true love story here was between the sisters. I think of the story this way when I hear the author read the beautiful passage in the Sisters Red trailer on YouTube, or read the bittersweet epilogue.

    It’s greatly encouraging to see that you’re yearning for YA literature without a romantic interest for female characters. Interestingly, I think that the author of Sisters Red might agree with you on this point and might bring you such a story some future day.

  • Lea
    July 29, 2010 at 3:58 am

    How disappointing. Whenever a book insists on drawing some sort of false dichotomy between pretty/flighty/flirty/weak girls and tough/clever/successful/whatnot ones, I can’t help but roll my eyes. The world isn’t divided into useful and useless people, and women aren’t divided into predator and prey. What terrible heroes these characters are, doing so-called good deeds more for their own ego than to protect the innocent.

    Sadly, we diverge on Fables. I read it devotedly for a while but found myself increasingly frustrated and eventually gave up. I am looking forward to picking up Hines’ princess books (eventually), based partly on the strength of his blogging. 🙂

  • KMont
    July 29, 2010 at 5:19 am

    *I did read till the bitter end..*

    OK, I missed that totally, don’t know why I thought the book was a DNF for both of you. Well, now I know for sure not to get this one. That’s not a character trait I want to read about.

  • Lenore
    July 29, 2010 at 6:44 am

    I’m glad you made the distinction between a character having certain opinions because it is consistent to their character and a character saying something that really has no place in a book EVER. Scarlett thinking something like that = not cool, but understandable. But Silas…you’re right: that’s just epic fail.

  • Kait Nolan
    July 29, 2010 at 6:49 am

    I’m about a third to halfway through the book (not sure, it’s on audio) and I’ve definitely hit the wall with repetitive, dull, and just this morning was thinking “seriously? Nobody thinks it’s weird that they’re running around in red cloaks in ATLANTA?” I mean, c’mon. I like cloaks just as much as the next girl but I get that nobody WEARS them unless they’re at a Renn Faire. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to finish this definitely hasn’t encouraged me.

  • Marie
    July 29, 2010 at 7:49 am

    oh…I was so hoping that this would be a rave review. Thanks for honesty.

    There are so many great retelling of fairy tale in short stories format, I guess I’ll just have wait a little longer for a novel

  • janicu
    July 29, 2010 at 8:01 am

    I keep rereading those passages you excerpt. I am more in the same frame as Thea – the first one doesn’t bother me – it just makes Scarlett sound bitter. The second one – yeah. First it makes me feel uncomfortable that this author specifically made THOSE kinds of girls what the wolves go after. Like THOSE girls DESERVE to be hunted by terrifying creatures.. vs. OTHER girls who don’t go to clubs and flirt (?boggle?), and then these hunters who are supposed to be protecting them (you’d think), are judging them from afar because of how they dress and act. 😕

  • Mrs. Hanson
    July 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Well, crud; I’d been looking forward to reading this book. Don’t know that I’ll make the effort now.

    Thanks so much for the review/discussion, ladies!!

  • Sam Sykes
    July 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    So, with me being fully aware of our treading on delicate ground here, I’m interested in this discussion on rape culture, particularly as it pertains to fantasy.

    There’s been a tremendous increase of awareness of just how common this act is in a lot of fantasy stories, and frequently with how lightly it’s tossed around, used as an excuse for motive or what have you. Rape being the horrific act that it is, we rightfully get irritated when it’s treated with the improper handling. However, there’s no denying that the act does happen in real life and it does shape how a victim perceives things.

    My question then is whether or not there even IS a proper/improper way to handle the action. Is it such a sensitive and delicate subject that it can never be adequately handled in a fantasy book? Or can it occasionally (I use the term loosely) “work?”

  • kg
    July 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Sam Sykes – just to be clear, there is no rape in this book. But I like the discussion you are starting.

    And to be fair to the fictional Scarlett, she does say “No, I didn’t mean that” when she realizes the ugliness of her thoughts.

    She’s on a quest to kill all of the criminal wolf-boys, so it’s not that she’s justifying or rationalizing the Fenris behavior.

    Just my own point of view. It seems that there are multiple ways of interpreting this story. I think it’s worth a read for anyone who has been considering.

  • Ana
    July 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I wish I could be eloquent enough to express myself but here it goes my two cents:

    I think that the first thing is to realise that you are talking about two different things. Rape culture is one thing, depicion of rape in fiction is another.

    ‘Rape culture’ and all of those terms aren’t just about the act of rape and how it’s portrayed. It’s about the ATTITUDE that pervades society in which rape and other sexual violence are commited and condoned by way of for example sexist jokes,rape apology, blaming the victim. It is I think about normalising something that shouldn’t be.

    When it comes to fiction, I think the main problem when writing about rape is how this “norm” ends up permeating, invading the sub-text.

    I think Jim Hines says it better when he says that usually rape is use as shortcut to characterisation.

    I recommed reading his post: Writing about rape

  • Ana
    July 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Sam – Sorry, I don’t think I actually replied to your question. To be honest, I don’t know how to reply to it. I avoid reading book I know have rape in them like the plague because more often than not they are NOT adequately handled and that is a huge problem with me and can make or break a book.

    For example: Peter V. Brett’s The Painted Man
    ( the comments on that post are very intesresting too)

  • Sam Sykes
    July 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Very interesting stuff. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    My sister very recently left an abusive “Nice Guy” fiancee. It’s amazing to see the psychology behind it.

  • Carla
    July 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I’ve not read this book yet so my comment is going off what has been said in this post and the other commenters. I think for a book to say in so many words that because you may be “pretty” or “wearing flashy clothes” your asking to be attacked is just plain wrong. On all levels. Especially in a book specifically targeted at younger readers. Hell, for any book to promote this view to anyone of any age is highly unethical. And to know that the characters have this view which doesn’t change throughout the book is kind of bizarre and makes me wonder how the passage you have highlighted sits with other readers.

    Also, on the flip side, I think as reviewers we can be more highly critical of books because we review them to dissect and asscertain the good points and the bad points. Maybe some readers would read that passage and not think anything of it, whereas when you review books you look for things like character development and traits. So maybe this passage would not seem as blatantly wrong to some readers. Though, as a girl who likes to dress up and feel pretty every now and again (tomboy through and through), I would never ever feel that I was setting myself up for something bad should I choose to do this. It is never the victim that is in the wrong, it is always the criminal in every case. No one ever asks to be attacked, and i’m quite suprised that this was in the book. Though like I say, this can be interpreted in a totally different way by other readers.

    Interesting discussion, surely gave me something to think about.

  • Thea
    July 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone – it’s definitely become an interesting discussion.

    Just to ring in on what Sam, Ana and kg are talking about –

    Rape is a tough subject to broach, and this is delicate territory. I think, Sam, I understand what you are getting act with rape in fiction (especially fantasy fiction), and I *do* think there is a way to write and handle rape in a novel. For example, (SPOILER ALERT) in Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, Patricia Briggs’ Iron Kissed, and Diana Peterfreund’s Rampant, I think each instance of rape was horrific, but handled with the appropriate gravity. (Not to mention, each instance was integral to each actual novel in terms of plot and characterization – which unfortunately is NOT the case in the majority of instances of rape in fantasy fiction)

    Also, I wholeheartedly agree with the point that Ana makes above concerning the attitude towards rape in society, and how that attitude is pervasive in fiction, especially fantasy fiction.

    My biggest problem with the scenes in question for Sisters Red (which, as kg points out, are not rape scenes at all) is because the message seems to be that these girls are “asking for it.” That’s not a sentiment viewed through a character’s eyes – that’s the actual pervading, subtextual message. Sexy, pretty girls are attacked by wolves because they are sexy and pretty and inviting it.

    And I have to quote Aja above:

    Also, this idea that the attractive sister is *luring* the werewolf into attacking her with that pretty (slutty) red cloak–only to turn around and kill them; it’s empowering on one level, but on another level it’s representing female sexuality as dangerous and deadly, and that presentation also feeds into the ‘girls deserve what they get’ idea.

    YES. Exactly. That.

  • Aja
    July 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    My question then is whether or not there even IS a proper/improper way to handle the action. Is it such a sensitive and delicate subject that it can never be adequately handled in a fantasy book?

    Sam, I’ll add to the chorus, if I may. We hear this basic argument when we talk about Racefail a lot: the complaint, “it seems like there’s no way to do it (aka write about someone from another sociocultural identity) and get it right, so why should I bother trying at all?” And I think the guidelines are generally the same across the board. (I also just did a panel on this at a con so it’s stuck in my mind).

    You want to take the approach that representation is better than no representation at all. So, from the standpoint of Sisters Red, if there had been *someone* in the novel going “excuse me, girls who wear miniskirts ARE AWESOME and this idea that you’ve got to look a certain way is total b.s.,” then you’ve got a balanced and much more nuanced narrative pov of rape culture. If you throw in a character who feels empowered to dress however she wants, and she’s never slut-shamed or stereotyped, then you’ve added even more complexity. But the important thing is that the *more* representation you have the more people’s experiences you speak to.

    The other thing I want to say is that it’s not always possible to write someone else’s experience with complete sensitivity and accuracy, but it *is* always possible to try.

    In Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead, there are two instances of stalking going on: the main character is having her memories manipulated by the Bad Boy of the book. At the same time, her Ace friend Kevin is being stalked and emotionally controlled by the Femme Fatale of the book. So you have these parallel sets of manipulations happening, and it *could* have been handled very badly. Instead, the main character is very much aware that she’s being stalked and lied to, and there’s no romance happening between her and Mark until he stops his behavior. Kevin’s story is completely subverted–it’s his female friends who protect him from being raped, and it’s amazing.

    The Demon’s Lexicon, too, has a whole series of complex, increasingly dangerous interactions, some romantic, between Mae and each of the Ryves brothers. But she firmly decides exactly what her level of consent is going to be in each situation, and nothing ever undermines her of that agency. Silver Phoenix is a historical fantasy that is all about women finding ways to have agency despite having very little social or sexual power against the men who control their lives. There isn’t an actual rape but the threat of rape is a huge part of the entire novel.

    And then of course there’s Speak, which, while it isn’t fantasy, is a tremendous example of depicting a story about rape with honesty and sensitivity.

    tl;dr: there’s always a way to do this right, if you care enough to make the effort, and do the research, and check your privilege.

    And it’s worth doing right, because there is so much victim-blame, slut-shame, virgin-worship, and demonization of empowered female sexuality in our culture–much less queer and genderqueer sexuality– that we need *all* the stories we can get that fight those stereotypes.

  • danielle
    July 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve been hearing about that passage all over the place, but I was kind of hoping it would be one of those situations where someone would just WTF it and slap a bitch. Apparently not?

    This is dissapointing.

  • katiebabs
    July 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    As always, wonderful reviews Smuggles. Much to think about.

  • Jo
    July 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Uh…. just got this from the library today (it’s still in my bag). Perhaps I’ll just return it and come back to it at some other point? Very interesting review — and thanks for the link, too!

  • Jackson Pearce
    July 29, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Hi– I’m the author of SISTERS RED, and while I typically don’t respond to reviews (and have not read the comments in this post), I have to respond to this one and say, in capital letters:


    Of course, you can read the book any way you want– but I want to make sure that however you read it, my intentions are clear:
    Scarlett is bitter. She is angry. She is mad that she has to protect people who seem to not appreciate it. She is mad that she has to sacrifice for them. She. is. mad.

    Yet she is not blaming the victim. She is furious that there IS a victim. She is furious she feels like she can’t BE the victim. She is wondering if they would dress like that if they knew there *were* wolves–in some sense, she’s basically wondering if more girls would fight back, like her, if they knew there were wolves. But she isn’t, by any means, saying that it is their fault for being the victim. Silas’s comment is more about being glad Rosie and Silas aren’t club-going bouncy girls than regarding their being a “target” for the Fenris because unlike her, he isn’t ALWAYS thinking about them.

    This section, and this book, in many ways, is trying to point out that no matter HOW you dress/look/are, you have the right to fight back and be strong. You have the right to put on makeup and still wield and axe, or, if you prefer, not. You have the right to NOT be a victim.

    Hope this clears things up. Again– you can read whatever you want into my book, but I do think it’s important that I’m clear about MY intentions, since I don’t want it interpreted that I am ever, ever blaming a victim. QUITE the opposite.

  • Rosey
    July 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I didn’t care too much for it. There were parts/ideas I did like but overall I didn’t like it and that passage you posted did upset me a lot :x. I was really hoping it would have been better since I love retellings.

    I like Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguié

  • adrienne
    July 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    so I guess you guys didn’t like it 😀

  • Ana
    July 30, 2010 at 12:10 am

    @Jackson Pearce

    Thank you for your comment. I am not even sure you are going to read this reply since you are not reading the comments but I had to address a few things that you say.

    I can’t obviously argue on what your intentions were when writing the book. I can, however argue on what the text is. And it is now about reading what I want, it is interpreting from what is presented to me.

    I get what you say about Scarlett – in fact I even agree, as I say in my review.

    However, this other point:

    This section, and this book, in many ways, is trying to point out that no matter HOW you dress/look/are, you have the right to fight back and be strong. You have the right to put on makeup and still wield and axe, or, if you prefer, not. You have the right to NOT be a victim.

    might have been your intention but it is NOT (Capital letters, I can use them too) present in the book. All I hear from Silas and Scarlett about these girls is a mix of contempt (“disgust”), superiority and pity.

    In fact, on page 158 (ARC) there is a great opportunity where this “intent” could have been explored. Three girls are being followed by Fenris and they are presented as: giggle, giggle, toss their hair, and

    sway on their feet like a row of Lipizzan horses

    as Scarlett observes from afar. She doesn’t warn them because she doesn’t want them to lose their innocence. They are attacked and they do not protect themselves, they do not “fight back and be strong”. Instead they cry and

    scream. They clutch at each other. Their eyes are wide and terrified, streaming with tears.

    So, they are victims because they are Dragonflies. And never ONCE in the text do I see this different.

    And that is what I get from reading the text and the subtext.

  • Amanda
    July 30, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Thanks ladies for being so honest with your reviews.

    The book sounds like it’s NOT going to be included in my bookalanche.

    Keep up the great work 😀

  • Hannah
    July 30, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Thank you for addressing the victim-blaming in Sisters Red — it’s a difficult issue to confront and I have nothing but admiration for you both for bringing it up, and with that Peter V Brett book as well. I know to tread carefully if I read this book, now!

  • Megan
    July 30, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Some very interesting comments here. I appreciate that you guys do not shy away from highlighting themes like this in books (your review of ‘Black Lung Captain’ comes to mind, and was enough to stop me from buying that text). Your response to the author was well done also, considering that despite her claimed intentions her arguments seemed to only confirm the points you made.

  • KarenS
    July 30, 2010 at 6:34 am

    I’m a big fan of reviews that point out “simple” passages in books that have the power to change the way a person views women/men/people. I wasn’t a fan of As You Wish and had no intention to read Sisters Red, but the passages you’ve shared with us would have bothered me as well.

    “Do you really think they’d dress and act like that if they knew it was drawing wolves toward them?” is the incriminating like here, for me. In other words, if they knew their place they would…dress differently and act in a more appropriate manner?

    One of my greatest annoyances in fiction is the holier-than-thou attitude some characters have because they read “literature” and aren’t beautiful. It’s almost as bad as the attitude that a boy just has to be gorgeous and bad to be a perfect love interest, despite his actions and personality.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    July 30, 2010 at 8:55 am

    “Do you really think they’d dress and act like that if they knew it was drawing wolves toward them?” is the incriminating like here, for me. In other words, if they knew their place they would…dress differently and act in a more appropriate manner?

    See, I would liken that to the idea of people watching folks swimming in shark-infested waters and going “do you really think they’d swim there if we –who are the only ones who know about these sharks — put up a sign saying Jaws frequented the place?” We’re talking about monsters that eat people. The metaphor might be about rapists, but sometimes — and I think in this case — a cigar is just a cigar, and I think they are REALLY discussing the monsters.

    I don’t see victim-blaming; I see flawed characters who are understandably bitter about the lives they AREN’T leading and are comforting themselves with the idea that they have superior knowledge. Silas is saying DON’T blame them, they don’t KNOW there are monsters.

    Anyone watch Buffy? There’s an episode where Cordelia lands in an alternate universe where vampires have taken over the town. She’s walking around in bright colors and her friends are going “what are you doing? Don’t you know vampires like bright colors?” I feel like this is a similar passage.

  • Thea
    July 30, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Hi Jackson – my $0.02.

    (Maybe this is an exercise in futility, since you say you’re not reading comments, but oh well.)

    Thanks for clearing up and letting us (and readers) know what your intentions were when writing Sisters Red. I’m stoked to hear that you did not intend to blame the victim in your novel. But, as you so emphatically remind us in your comment, there is a huge difference between an author’s intent and a reader’s interpretation of the actual book.

    Whether you intended it or not, the metaphor for the whole premise of the book – wolves preying on sexy, pretty girls – is problematic. The implication is that female sexuality is dangerous, inevitably leading to death (even when the sisters fight back by luring in wolves using their sexuality, the outcome is still death).

    I have to agree with Ana that in Sisters Red, especially in the passages in question, Rose and Silas have a dismissive, judgmental, condescending attitude towards the dragonfly girls. In fact, in your comment, you actually confirm this:

    Silas’s comment is more about being glad Rosie and Silas aren’t club-going bouncy girls than regarding their being a “target” for the Fenris because unlike her, he isn’t ALWAYS thinking about them.

    The implication is that the dragonfly girls – these bouncy club chicks in their skimpy outfits – are inferior to Scarlett and Rosie.

    With that in mind, it’s kind of hard to reconcile the dismissive attitude with the rest of your comment:

    This section, and this book, in many ways, is trying to point out that no matter HOW you dress/look/are, you have the right to fight back and be strong. You have the right to put on makeup and still wield and axe, or, if you prefer, not. You have the right to NOT be a victim.

    And FURTHERMORE, doesn’t this last bolded sentence imply that victimization is the norm? As with the whole premise of your book, your comment is saying to me that girls are automatically victims (sexually appealing girls even more so), but it’s ok because gosh-darn-it they have the RIGHT to rise above their victimization. It’s like you are saying, “Girls, guess what?! You have the RIGHT not to be raped!”

    Well, gee, thanks. There is something wrong with this picture.

    Diana, I get what you’re saying about a cigar being a cigar, but I have to disagree. Yes, there is the clear danger element that it appears these two characters are discussing, but I don’t think the metaphor can be so simply dismissed. It’s the whole premise of the novel, really.

  • KarenS
    July 30, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Diana, since I haven’t read Sisters Red, I really can’t say whether the tone of the novel is anything like the tone of the Buffy episode The Wish. I based my comment on the review I read here, which indicates the tone of the book doesn’t make it that simple.

    And considering who was telling Cordelia she was wearing the “Bite Me” outfit (Harmony and her crew), I’m not sure the comparison is a good one. I also think the “White Hats” in that episode (Xander, Oz, the Jock) said Cordelia was asking for it. The Jock said it to Giles in disgust, but I think his exchange with Giles was due to his dislike for Cordelia as an individual (she was pretty nasty and mean to everyone), and not as a general statement about all girls who giggle and wear make up, and dress prettily when they go out. What I get from this review is that the girls Silas and Scarlett are speaking about are random girls they don’t know personally.

  • alana
    July 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    In the end it doesn’t really matter if the author was only talking about monsters (vs rapists) or how noble her sentiments are. The fact is rape culture is a huge problem in our society and messages like the one in this book, whether or not it was meant to, contribute to that problem. Does that mean the author or anyone who enjoys this book is a horrible person who thinks rape victims deserve to be raped? Of course not. But that also doesn’t excuse the fact that this message adds to the already deafening roar that tells women (because even though men are raped as well these messages are always directed at women) that every person but rapists are to blame for people being raped. Far too often the conversation resorts to controlling women through fear by telling them what they’re allowed to wear, how much they’re allowed to drink, who they’re allowed to sleep with, and how even if they dress conservatively, never drink, and remain chaste some men still won’t be able to “help themselves.” But vulnerability does not cause violent crimes. Personal responsibility and blame is not the same thing, though rape culture makes it virtually impossible to have one without the other.

    By itself this particular line of thinking in this particular book may not be the end of the world, but coupled with the other messages out there it’s pretty shitty to say the least.

    Great review.

  • Amber
    July 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Hhmmm when reading the book that thought never once crossed my mind. I remember that exact passage and thought how it showed how bitter Scarlett really was as a person and how low her self-esteem was. It’s actually the point where I felt the most sorry for her. But I guess that’s the beauty of writing everyone is going to take it how they want.

  • Rachel Bateman
    July 31, 2010 at 7:42 am

    I usually love Book smuggler reviews and use them as a barometer as to whether I should give the book a shot or not. This one, however, sets my blood boiling. Not because I read the book and really enjoyed it. Not because I have read every one of Jackson’s blog posts and watched all her youTube videos and know that in NO WAY is she the kind of person who would EVER blame the victim or imply that pretty club-going girls are weak and “asking for it”.

    I hate this review because I loathe when people try to read more than there is in a book and blame the author for what they read, not what the author wrote. Do you really think that someone who didn’t already have passionate thoughts about rape culture and victim blaming would even find the parallel in the book? No. They wouldn’t. I saw the parallel, but I also saw a bitter girl and a boy who says things and does things to make her feel better about her disfigurement, not two characters who think it is the girls’ FAULT that the Fenris eat them. My younger sister didn’t pick up on the parallel at all; I had to point it out to her to ask what she thought about it (which was, and I quote, “I think they are stretching here. Sometimes a book is just a book, not a statement.”).

    I am not saying that victim blaming is not a terrible thing, because it is. What I am saying is that it looks like you are taking a little bit of the prose, blowing it WAY out of proportion and basing your entire review on those 100 words. And, while everyone interprets things differently, I think you are looking at the bit wrong anyway. You admit that Scarlett is only thinking these things because she is bitter, and are enraged that Silas says it. But what I read when Silas says it is not victim blaming, but a great friend trying to cheer a girl up because he knows her well enough to know that she is upset she will never be able to look like those girls.

    I could dissect every bit of what you said and why I disagree with it, but that would be pointless. Especially since I know that nothing I say can sway your viewpoint at all. That is apparent since, after Jackson herself stopped by to clarify her intentions (I would too if someone was spouting out that I support victim blaming), you broke down her explanation bit-by-bit and argued why it didn’t matter, and even go as far as to say, once again, that she is saying what she isn’t. By saying girls have the right not to be the victim, she is not saying default mode is victim at all.

    Pretty much, it appears to me that you two are determined to hate this book (right down to a full part about an author using a word you don’t like in “Fenris”), and will find anything you can to keep hating it. You are so set in your hate, that even when the author comes to clarify intentions (yes, I know that her clarification doesn’t change the text), you rip apart her comment and use it to further accuse her of victim blaming.

    Book Smugglers, you normally entertain and enlighten me. Today you disgust me.

  • Gerd D.
    July 31, 2010 at 10:18 am

    The thing about rape culture is that there’s this idea that a girl is lucky if she doesn’t get raped. And it’s SO pervasive that we all start with this idea that the default behavior is “GIRLS GETTING RAPED.”

    Yeah, I think the most terrifying quote by a schoolgirl regarding her gender was “Girls get raped”
    We get so trained to think about girls and women as rape victims by the press and popular crime shows that I begin to wonder if we’re not implanting a triggered response in boys which leads to more sexual aggression against women and girls because the idea is already so wide spread that they may as well follow trough…

    In general the problem is not having a character express that he believes women and girls to get raped because they act or dress in a way that encourages the wrong type of people, because a lot of people do think so. It becomes a problem if you neither allow your character to grow out of his prejudices nor offer up anything to counter his erroneous assumption.

    But part of this idea is also born from the way teens do behave, this whole bad guy vibe some girls seem to feel magical drawn to combined with the natural need to look attractive to the other gender. Add to that a culture that shows an open hostility towards prostitutes, and puts the behaviour of a girl that enjoys sex and shows herself as open minded about it on a par with prostitution and bingo, no wonder that you have male, underage sex-molesters running around on schools that would never think of themselves as doing anything wrong.

    Or to play with the allegory, blaming the werewolves for preying on people, regardless of what they’re wearing!

    I think the metaphor of the werewolf as sexual predator is faulty to begin with, because it either means that wolves are evil by default or that sexual predators follow a natural instinct they can’t control.

    Regarding rape apologism I was recently linked to this very valid article about Nice Guys and why they can be toxic

    Interesting article with one major problem, you can’t really expect men to react all welcoming to the idea of being judged based on our gender. It’s not a fault of mine that I was born with this chromosome set-up and not a different one. If you want to blame me for something blame my actions on me, not those of others that went before me.

    Ahm, yeah, got a bit off-topic…

  • Emma
    July 31, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    This. THIS. This is why I absolutely hated Sisters Red and returned it to the store to get my money back. Ugh.

    Thank you SO MUCH for this review. Everyone seems to love it and I’m like, why? Every part of this book just fails so hard.

  • Renay
    July 31, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    @Gerd D

    You said: Interesting article with one major problem, you can’t really expect men to react all welcoming to the idea of being judged based on our gender. It’s not a fault of mine that I was born with this chromosome set-up and not a different one. If you want to blame me for something blame my actions on me, not those of others that went before me.

    I think you should go read before you say anything else about how you don’t want to be judged based on your gender. Way to miss the point.

    (Sorry Ana and Thea, I couldn’t let that stand. >.<)

  • Celine
    August 1, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Renay : No-one should be judged based on their gender.

    Reading the rest of Gerd D’s comment it seems to me he pretty much gets the point BTW.

  • Aja
    August 1, 2010 at 12:37 am


    – by the author’s own use of the “red cloak”, aka the universal symbol of dangerous female sexuality, she has set up a universe wherein what girls wear has both a symbolic and literal sexual meaning. So she’s set up a world where a) girls who wear non-conservative (aka slutty) clothes are at increased risk of attack from predators, and b) this is presented to us as something the girls who don’t know any better than to avoid wearing clothes that attract predators are mocked and insulted. Your argument that these insults are only meant literally in the context of ‘they should know there are wolves out there’ only holds up if there’s a way to extract the symbolism from the literal meaning of what’s happening. And there just isn’t. You’d have to be *very* obtuse not to know what red cloaks and wolves are metaphors for in universal culture/folklore; you’d have to be *extremely* literal, to the point of deliberate naivete, to not understand that shaming girls for what they wear has a deeper meaning. It *automatically* sends a message, because girl-shaming is so embedded and familiar to us. It *automatically* reinforces all those messages about how bad girls who stray from the path get devoured, and how girls who wear certain clothing or drink at parties are “just asking for it.” You can’t, you just can’t, separate some ideas from their larger contexts. I’m not saying that to insist upon a certain deeper reading–I’m saying that’s the most basic, universal reading of this scene, and you’d have to read/think *much* more deeply to come up with a way that it *isn’t* on a basic level about slut-shaming. Until our entire culture stops reinforcing the idea that girls who wear slutty clothes are just asking for it, then it’s not unreasonable to assume that the absolute most basic reading of this scene is “girls who wear slutty clothes are just asking for it.”

    Celine and Gerd: in order to discriminate against men, you’d have to strip the entire gender of its inherent social power and allow them to be put in positions of victimization. This is not where we are as a society. Men have all the institutional power, all over the world, while women are paid less, promoted less, abused more, and raped every 2 minutes. So men can afford to face the fact that when it comes to negative depictions of men as abusers, rapists, or rape apologists, they’re really looking at the consequences of having all the power of one gender over another. They *still* have that power and privilege. It’s not like it’s been taken away from them. So, you know, I think they can cope.

    Gerd: In general the problem is not having a character express that he believes women and girls to get raped because they act or dress in a way that encourages the wrong type of people, because a lot of people do think so.

    Thea and Ana addressed this in the review explicitly. The problem is that the entire book upholds this idea, not that one character espouses it and then is undermined by either another character contradicting them, or something in the book subverting that conventional wisdom. Nothing about Sisters Red does this. That is the fundamental problem.

  • Celine
    August 1, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Aja, no-one should be judged based on their gender. There is nothing equivocal or grey area about that sentence. It doesn’t negate the rest of this discussion about gender politics or rape culture or woman’s position in society.

  • Aja
    August 1, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Except the reality is that men *do* have power and privilege *as a gender.* Equating a discussion of gender politics with “judging” is a derailment and an example of the tone argument.

  • Celine
    August 1, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Sorry Aja, do you have a problem with accepting the fact that no-one should be judged based on their gender? ( a sentence which sprang from Renay’s picking one sentence from a Gerd D’s post ( a post which agreed with the smugglers by the way) and posting this link in response.

  • Celine
    August 1, 2010 at 12:54 am

    This – btw – is completely derailing the focus of the review thread.

  • Aja
    August 1, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Exactly my point, Celine. The tone argument is derailing.

    A discussion of the gender politics that inform how we read the book is not.

  • Celine
    August 1, 2010 at 1:05 am

    I’m not sure I get you. Renay tried to negate Gerd D’s post by asking him to suck it up when he said he felt men might have a problem being told they’re all potential rapists ( a comment he recognised was off point) and I simply pointed out that no-one should be judged based on gender. I was responding to a blatant lack of respect for someone based on thier gender! For goodness sake. Get on with the conversation and stop beating to death a perfectly legitimate point which is that no-one should be judged based on thier gender!

  • Celine
    August 1, 2010 at 1:05 am

    do excuse my bad spelling.

  • Ana
    August 1, 2010 at 1:45 am

    @ Rachel Bateman – I am sorry your comment did not show up sooner, for some reason it ended up in the spam folder!

    I am sorry you feel this way.

    The thing is: I don’t know Jackson Pearce, I never read her blog, never watched her videos, didn’t know her intentions. I only interacted with her text and part of doing that, as a reviewer I think, is to interact with the subtext as well because to me, most of the time a book is not “just a book”. And I am glad and proud to be passionate and have thoughts on rape culture. And because I am passionate about this, ,because I am aware of this, I can also say that even if I had read her blog and watched her videos, I would still find problems with this book. It is a circle back to the very discussion that we are having.

    I believe we did not base our entire review on 100 words and we mentioned other things that bothered us as well, since it was a book discussion on why we didn’t like the book – including repetitiveness, rehashing of the same conflict, worldbuilding that did not work for us which yes, included the name Fenris – pet peeves, we have them too.

    As for the author’s comments – she made a point about what her intended to have written and I simply replied to her. Was I not supposed to reply to her comment? She came into a conversation after all even if she doesn’t intend to be a part of it.

  • Lacey
    August 1, 2010 at 5:04 am

    I’m inclined to agree with Rachel Bateman here. I haven’t read the book myself, but whatever the intentions of the author, it’s a mistake to believe that a character’s opinion is the same as the author’s opinion. The author isn’t preaching to anyone, the author isn’t responsible for putting “bad” attitudes out there. The story is what it is, and it’s okay for characters to be unlikeable and to say things we find abhorrent. Increasingly, I’ve noticed a trend in genre fiction where the protagonist is just a bit too “perfect”. Not in any traditional sense, but it’s almost as if they’re tailored for a specific audience (prolific readers) to not cause any offense or be annoying or stupid or weak or hateful. They always do the right thing, they always behave in exactly the way we’d like to think WE would behave in that situation, and so they placate us. Terms like “TSTL”, “Mary Sue”, etc, have contributed to this kind of backlash, but in a weird sort of way, the emerging breed of “anti-Mary Sue” protagonist is just as much of a plastic creation. We say we champion the “flawed” character, but a vast majority of them are perfect in their imperfection. The featured excerpt is a much better example of flawed characters, even if (or especially if) they do mean what you think they mean. The rest of the book may be tosh, of course, but the excerpt in question didn’t offend me.

  • Gerd D.
    August 1, 2010 at 8:25 am

    I loathe when people try to read more than there is in a book and blame the author for what they read, not what the author wrote.

    I would usually agree with that, there’s few things more annoying than people trying to read subtext into something when there is non. But with picking Red Riding Hood she picked one of the best know, most dissected and discussed analogies for sexual abuse. This is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it has become practically impossible to read any version of the story without looking for subtext. And she writes practically writes in Horror which very much lives from using subtext.

    Still, I do think that the general idea sounds like something one can have a lot of fun with and just relish in girl power and bloody mayhem, without intending to send out any kind of message. But I dare say that as an author she should have been aware of the whole possible implications that choosing this specific character brings with it, and when she then did go and have her wolves, as I gather from the review to be the case, prey on dressed up party-girls looking for fun, it becomes difficult not to notice the metaphor that creates.

  • KMont
    August 1, 2010 at 8:30 am

    It is perfectly clear that the Smugglers reviewed the book and their views of it. Not the author. Where the heck do any of you see the author being reviewed? Ana replying to the author’s statements isn’t an attack on the author. Nor does it mean they are determined to hate anything. Strong, well-reasoned arguments are not hate. Get a grip, people.

  • katiebabs
    August 1, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Whoa hold up here! Thea and Ana saw something in the book they wanted to point out and I don’t see anything wrong with that. They are in no way lashing out at the author, just a specific part of the story that made them uncomfortable.

    How by them expressing their opinion is disgusting? They have a valid point and why should they be thrown under the bus for stating their opinion?

    I applaud both Thea and Ana for this review, just like all their past ones.

  • Lacey
    August 1, 2010 at 10:02 am

    To the above commenters, if the author’s intentions and/or beliefs aren’t a factor, then what’s the issue with what the characters say in this particular scenario? If it’s not the author’s intention to make a statement or condone a certain way of thinking, why can’t the characters be the type of people who say sexist and judgemental things that show their skewed view of the world? I’m not saying Jackson Pearce intended for her characters to represent this view, but even if she did, why can’t the characters be this way? And to go one step further, is it essential for us to like a character in order to appreciate a book? Does it always have to be someone we root for, someone we’d like to be friends with? Other issues with the book aside, is it a valid criticism to say that a character is unlikeable? To use The Catcher in the Rye as an example, I can’t say I like Holden Caulfield very much, but I still value the book as a whole.

  • KMont
    August 1, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Of course the characters can be that way. After all, they are. The book was published with them being that way. As you say, unlikable. No, it’s not essential to like a character in order to appreciate a book. What is apparently important to some readers though is how the characters GROW from what they do and say and see and react to and so forth. I believe this is essentially part of the valid points Thea and Ana were making in their review. That the characters being this way didn’t serve any greater purpose in the book. So the characters remain the same old same old – what’s so great about that? What makes that worthy of appreciating the book as whole? Maybe some just don’t appreciate characters that are determined to remain as Thea and Ana saw them to be? I mean I guess if you like characters that remain as the ones in this one do, and they never try to become anything more, that’s great. But just because Thea and Ana have a different view doesn’t make it any less valid or less of a reason to call the things they do into question.

    I’d say it is still definitely valid to say a character is unlikable if you can follow up with good examples of WHY. If you can have one, you can have the other in these cases (Because reading is what? Subjective). After all, there are plenty of positive reviews for this book, and I’ve yet to see people raising a stink over them – you just usually won’t when there’s no criticism. And Thea and Ana explained their dislike very clearly. So it’s entirely valid to also ask why isn’t it OK NOT to like a character? And to express clearly why (although I think it’s simplifying their criticism way too much – they are doing a hell of a lot more than merely explaining a dislike of characters here)? Some have taken issue with them doing so in this review. Should they have quietly shut up when the author came in to explain HER side? Pearce is the one who’s made it seem like they are attacking her as an author. But some are able to see through that.

    It’s not just about disliking a character. The review makes this pretty clear.

  • Gerd D.
    August 1, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I’m not saying Jackson Pearce intended for her characters to represent this view, but even if she did, why can’t the characters be this way?

    Other issues with the book aside, is it a valid criticism to say that a character is unlikeable?

    Much depends on the character’s purpose, naturally.
    But take “twilight” as an alternative example: Jacob is described as being borderline abusive, controling and doesn’t shy away from using emotional blackmail. And he’s toted as being one of the good guys.

    Now, is that really something you would want people to accept as being natural behaviour?
    If character flaws do not get counter balanced the author runs in danger to create an acceptance for them in his readers.

  • KMont
    August 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Gerd, that’s a great example and explanation. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Estara
    August 1, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Re: Aja and Celine: I didn’t include the linke to the essay in my comment to derail the discussion of the book here, but actually thought it fit with themes that seemed to be included aka “if the girl dresses sexy, she’s asking for it”. I had come across it recently and it seems connected to the things in the book that disturbed the Smugglers to me, so I added it.

    I would definitely agree that a discussion of the post I linked to should happen in the post’s comments or would need a wholly new post about the subject as such, not connected to this specific book review.

  • Lacey
    August 1, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    KMont – Thanks for talking to me like I’m an idiot, I really appreciate it. I never would have known that reading is subjective otherwise. For the record, I’m not saying Thea and Ana shouldn’t criticise the book or that their opinions aren’t valid, I’m merely bringing up some questions that the community might like to discuss. Let me say once more that I haven’t read the book, so I’m going on what I’ve read in this review only, and my reactions to it.

    When you talk about character growth, are they supposed to become better in some way, more moral, kinder, etc? I don’t think that’s necessary, and can even come off as forced in some cases. As for their behaviour and attitudes serving a “greater purpose”, I would argue that not many character traits serve a greater purpose as such. It’s easy to say that a negative character trait should serve a greater purpose, but that’s because it makes you too uncomfortable for them to stay that way (regardless of other character growth they may go through). From what I can tell, Scarlett’s actions and thoughts were in keeping with her experiences and emotions. They serve the character in that moment, and very well if the excerpt is any indication, but I don’t see why it has to be some kind of basis for personal growth. In this particular case, other issues with the book contributed to the low grade given, but by Ana’s own admission the scene outside the nightclub incensed her immediately and from that point onwards, she was unable to take the characters seriously or care about them. When I eventually read this book, I too may come to dislike many things about it, but the morality of the characters rarely, if ever, affect my estimation of them, so perhaps that’s where we differ.

    Gerd D. – I don’t think books (or any media) have a duty to foster or preserve morality in its readers. We don’t always see model behaviour in real life, so I wouldn’t hold a book up to that standard either. I disagree that Jacob (or Edward) is abusive, though. You can make an argument for manipulative and controlling behaviour, but a lot of teen relationships (romantic or otherwise) can be that way, and Twilight is amped up to the extreme when it comes to melodrama. I take it as campy entertainment and not much more. Of course, there are many teens obsessed with Twilight and its version of idealised love, but they’re not stupid. I think they know not to take lessons from a story about obsessive vampire love.

  • KMont
    August 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Lacey, I didn’t talk to you like you were an idiot – you decided to take it that way. I’m sorry you did so, but I was merely trying to get my views across in response to your questions and I am laughing that you decided to take it as an attack on you. You invited us all to discuss things by asking questions. I think it’s pretty obvious that we differ without you pointing that out. I’m really confused as to why you’re acting so defensively, but rest assured I don’t intend to go any further with you on this, as to who the heck knows what you’d take offense at next.

    Ana, Thea, apologies. I thought my posts here would be helping, but I see that they’ll only derail this train more.

  • Lacey
    August 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Of course the characters can be that way. After all, they are. The book was published with them being that way.

    Because reading is what? Subjective.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that we differ without you pointing that out.

    My apologies. Of course it’s all in my head and your tone isn’t belittling in any way…or perhaps you talk to everyone as if you’re a teacher explaining something to a dim child? I also find it ironic that when it comes to this, I’m simply taking it the “wrong way”, but when it comes to the author of this book, no such excuses are allowed and the reader isn’t “taking it the wrong way”.

    Regardless of your tone, I gave you the courtesy of replying to the statements you made, but I suppose I don’t merit that much in return. Who knows what I might take offense at next, and who knows what book you might take offense at next. Swings and roundabouts.

  • KMont
    August 1, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Lacey, I can only try one more time to assure you that I wasn’t trying to be belittling. I personally, actually, take offense to you likening me to someone that would treat a child in an ill manner but I also realize you’re a little angry, and I didn’t ever intend that. I was just trying, with all honesty, to respond to you. Maybe I misunderstood you? It’s possible, but it’s clear you’ve misunderstood some things as well.

    I think the thing that set this all off is when you ask “is it a valid criticism to say that a character is unlikeable?” Obviously some think so and others don’t. I admit I don’t understand at all why you would think it’s not a valid thing to talk about in a book review, but apples, oranges and so forth. I didn’t think pointing out that reading is subjective, and therefore we all see things differently in books, was a cause for taking it as saying anyone was an idiot. I’ve always thought it meant we’re all different as readers – and that it’s OK. Clearly I’m not going to get what you’re saying, or rather, see it as you do (so yes, I completely agree – we’re very different). You have your feelings on the great wide open questions you’ve asked, some have completely different ones. And that’s OK.

    That’s all.

  • Thea
    August 1, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Hi folks, and thanks for the continued comments.

    KMont and Lacey – I think emotions are definitely running high, in part because this is a more delicate subject and an impassioned discussion. I don’t think anyone is intending to make personal attacks or sound intentionally belittling/condescending – but teh internets are a tricky thing, and it is touch to get “tone” and full context sometimes (especially in a volatile environment, such as this one)! All Ana and I can ask are that you please refrain from personal attacks – but please continue with the discussion!

    Lacey, I think you bring up a very interesting point. Like you, I completely agree that characters need not be beacons of morality or even likable, or that a book need have a Good Message. How boring would the literary universe be if that were the case? Some of my favorite books star flawed, “terrible” protagonists, or incredibly bleak, amoral conclusions. (This is just my opinion, I cannot speak for Ana or anyone else)

    That said, I don’t really think that is what the issue is with Sisters Red. To answer your first comment:

    To the above commenters, if the author’s intentions and/or beliefs aren’t a factor, then what’s the issue with what the characters say in this particular scenario? If it’s not the author’s intention to make a statement or condone a certain way of thinking, why can’t the characters be the type of people who say sexist and judgemental things that show their skewed view of the world?

    I think it’s perfectly fine to have characters that say sexist and judgmental things – they are characters in a book. The issue for me is that the book in its entirety subscribes to the same sexist and judgmental view – intentionally or not, the allegory, the overall message is sexist, judgmental, and embodies the worst, most pervasive elements of rape culture in our society. The book was written with the intent of empowering girls (as stated by the author above), but in reality Sisters Red does the exact opposite. It perpetuates the same oppressive, disempowered mentality that tells girls that if they act, dress, or behave in certain ways, they get what they deserve.

    THAT is why I have a problem with the book (in addition to the other flaws listed above). Of course, this is just my own opinion.

    And further – just because I feel that a book has a reprehensible message, that does not mean I feel this about the author. I cannot stress this enough. There is a huge difference between thinking something of a book, and thinking something of its author. This review, these comments are in no way a personal attack against the author.

    I hope that clears things up somewhat.

  • Rachel Bateman
    August 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I guess I should have clarified better. I did not say I was disgusted because you don’t like the book. I didn’t say it because I think you are taking the “rape culture/victim blaming” thing way too far. What disgusted me was your response to Jackson’s comment.

    Yes, of course you should be able to respond to her. Why not? What got me what when you broke down what she said into component pieces and twisted her words to say that she was saying exactly what you were saying. Her saying that it is a woman’s right not be be a victim in no way meant she thought women were by default weak victims.

    Anyway, people can break down other peoples’ words all day long and make them say what they want to hear, good or bad. People will read into this book (and any other) whatever they want, and me typing this comment will never stop it. I get that.

  • Thea
    August 1, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Rachel Bateman – Thanks for clarifying that, and what can I say? I am sorry that you feel disgusted with us (me?) because of our response to Ms. Pearce’s comment.

    That said, I don’t think that either Ana or I twisted Ms. Pearce’s words – in fact, we directly quoted her words in full context – but obviously our responses struck a chord with you. I do have to disagree with you – because by saying that women have the right to NOT be a victim, that DOES imply that the normal state of things is that women are victims. I don’t know how else to explain this – wouldn’t it be simpler to say “Women are NOT victims” than to say “Women have the right NOT to be victims”? Again, I think this is very relevant to the discussion at hand, especially as it pertains to the subconscious psychology of victim-blaming and rape culture. I don’t think that Ms. Pearce intended to imply that women are naturally victimized – but that is how it came out.

    Of course, this is all a matter of interpretation. This is my personal interpretation, and you have your own views and understanding.

    I do want to apologize to you though, because it was never my intent to disgust you or come across as snarky or vindictive! But, again, there is a difference between intent and reality. Right? I sincerely hope you don’t hold this discussion against Ana or myself, as we do try to be as fair and honest as possible. Thank you, again, for sharing your opinion.

  • Rachel Bateman
    August 1, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Don’t worry! I love your blog, and will continue to love it long after this post. Like you said, we obviously have very different views and interpretations of this. I was reading the comments again, and I find the irony of us all talking about our different interpretations of what Jackson meant in the book….and we all have our own interpretations of what we are saying as well.

    I will continue reading your blog. Apparently this one post just really got me riled up for some reason. 🙂

  • Lacey
    August 2, 2010 at 12:25 am

    KMont – When I said “is it a valid criticism to say that a character is unlikeable?”, I’d like to clarify that I wasn’t making a statement that it’s not a valid criticism, it was a genuine open question which I thought (and hoped) would produce a variety of opinions. I didn’t intend to compare you to someone who would treat a child badly, either, but merely someone who would talk slowly for the benefit of a slow-learner. Saying “reading is subjective” is different from saying “reading is what? subjective”, and can come across as if you’re talking down to someone. But that’s by the by and I’m happy to move on from it.

    Thea – Thank you for your reply (and among other things your professional approach in a heated environment). I do understand where you’re coming from, and it’s very possible that once I read this book I will have the same feelings and reactions as you did. I suppose what confused me is that if the book has an overall tone that women are victims or deserve some sort of punishment, but we’re all in agreement that the author didn’t intend to send this message to her readers, then I’m left wondering where it comes from. I think it’s interesting in a wider context that such thinking can be prevalent even when unintended, and I’m sure there’s a lot of room for social commentary here. I do think, though, that women empower themselves in different ways (not all of them noble ways), and perhaps Scarlett makes herself feel better by viewing The Dragonflies as weaker than her or deserving punishment, and somewhere deep in her mind perhaps thinks that she deserved her punishment (disfigurement) as well. I think I would understand her in this case, but it’s clear that she has a complex psychology and we could probably be here all day and night talking about issues of gender, psychology, imagery, sex, etc. I suppose I’ll get a move on a read the book for myself!

  • KMont
    August 2, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Lacey, I’m sorry, but no. That whole thing about subjectivity, that was a rhetorical question. It was not as you keep insisting it was. I don’t know what to say on that any further, except to show that it wasn’t as you say. I was merely using what is generally a given to most readers to try to help make a point. I’m sorry you took it another way, but I won’t sit here and look the way you’re saying it was. I’m sorry that became such a big issue.

  • Lacey
    August 2, 2010 at 5:35 am

    KMont – In the contest and tone of your overall post, I couldn’t help but feel I was being talked down to, and just like you, I’m not going to pretend that wasn’t the case. I’m happy to agree to disagree.

  • Gerd D.
    August 2, 2010 at 6:44 am

    I don’t think books (or any media) have a duty to foster or preserve morality in its readers. We don’t always see model behaviour in real life, so I wouldn’t hold a book up to that standard either.

    Got me there. 🙂
    I have to admit that I’m a subscriber to the adage that an author should strive to better the world, never to worsen it.

    But I do agree with you, to a degree, characters do not have to be beacons of morality nor do authors have to be. However, I adamantly believe that media and authors do have to take responsibility for their output.

    And here I do hold Kids and YA literature (and other media, too) to a different, higher standard than I do their produced for a grown-up audience counterpart. I do believe that authors and publishers in this filed have more of a duty to be keep aware of what they put out.

    Now let me take a wide swing here to hopefully better illustrate why these things matter, I promise to try and not get too far off-topic:
    I think we can unisono agree that language plays a large part in rape culture, everything that is bound to offer perpetrators an excuse for their actions, or allows “us” to shift blame, is potentially dangerous. The over and over repeated use of slanderous, or objectifying terms for women is an integral part of rape culture. Even though it is hard to put a finger on the exact mechanics of it, it is a fact that calling somebody “Bitch” or worse, does change the way we further interact with that person, these terms are aimed at lowering the threshold, though so far you probably wouldn’t get published in YA using them.

    The repeated use of rape myths works in a similar way.
    The very first reaction you will invariably get to hear when a woman is attacked alone in a park, or on a street, is: “What was she doing alone there?”, you’ll never hear that question asked when the victim was male.
    What is the message?
    Women should not (be allowed to) move around on their own, if they do so anyway they have to face the consequences.
    The use of this particular myth is by the way my pet peeve with “twilight”, Bella strays from the way and promptly has to face the threat of being raped and murdered. This becomes particularly aggravating as it serves no other purpose in the story than to have an excuse for Edward to appear on the scene and rescue her.
    One couldn’t have written the message clearer using neon letters.

    Now, the message does not have to be delivered that blatant or intentional for “Sisters Red” to still potentially help to lower the threshold or aid the system when it uses the “dress or act flirty and you have to face the consequences” myth.
    Does it matter that the authors intent was a different one?
    No, it doesn’t, much.
    Actual intent of what is written is often not as important as how people read it.

    But let me add here that I didn’t read the book, and therefore have to give it the benefit of the doubt that as unfortunate as that particular passages comes across it can still be a worth while read. Personally I’m worried most about how easily YA literature adapts certain tropes from Romance these days for a younger, less prepared audience (or maybe it always did, and I’ve just become more sensitive to it). But again, I’m not saying that YA literature should be all puppies and happy dances, to the contrary, I think it is most important for this genre to also tackle uncomfortable topics, it’s just that I’m not willing to give them as much leeway to err when doing so.

    So, to end this tl/dr entry/rant:
    “Is it valid to criticise a book for its (use of) characters?”

    I would answer to that:
    It’s not only valid, it’s necessary.
    Personally I never read “Catcher in the Rye”, but what I gathered from discussions about this book is this, it’s not the story in itself that is of such greatness, it’s the discussion it fanned up and still continues to, that elevates its worth.

  • Lacey
    August 2, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Gerd. D – You raise some interesting points, and I agree with you on several. I too think that an author should strive to contribute something positive to the world, but I’m of the opinion that the only duty they have is to the art and not to the audience. If someone writes responsibly, then I think it’s commendable, but they shouldn’t feel an obligation to do so. I’d much rather a violent, puerile, sexist piece of art exist rather than not exist, and I think we should leave moderation to parents/teachers/etc. As long as the quality of work is good, the themes and subject matter aren’t a factor with me.

    In regards to Twilight and Bella constantly having to be saved, I was always of the mind that it’s because she’s a fragile human, not because she’s a weak female. The vampires also protect Charlie, though it’s from afar and Charlie is unaware of the danger he’s in. To follow on from that thought, when I first read this review I thought that the Fenris were hunting young women and raping them. Thea and Ana can correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume that there’s no rape in the book? I’m not implying that there needs to be rape in this book to make that connection, but the connection won’t be as glaring to some readers as it is to others. You can take so many approaches to literary criticism (gender, post-modernism, marxism, psychoanalysis, the list goes on an on) that it depends on how the reader approaches it. I hate to use the word “sensitive”, but for lack of a better word, if a reader is sensitive to feminist themes, then I understand how they would make the link between the themes in this book and an irresponsible portrayal of rape and the effects of rape. I suppose my main point out of all this is that it’s not how I would immediately read the book, I think I would take various approaches to it and see how one might relate to the other, and so on and so forth.

    I don’t know if I articulated my thoughts as well as I wanted, but that’s how I see it in a nutshell. I hereby conclude the end of my own tl;dr entry. 😀

  • Ole A. Imsen
    August 2, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I came her from @SamSykesSwears link for this post.
    Haven’t read any of the 77 comments.
    Fenris is the Norwegian name for the Fenris Wolf. Fenrir is Norse (they speak that in Island still).

    So it’s not actually a term, but a name, the same as THE Kraken. According to Norse legend there is only one. have no idea why it’s become a term, mostly used for werewolves in modern day English language genre fiction.

  • Rosemary
    August 3, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Oh, thank you. I love contemporary fairy-tale retellings, but really loathed this book. I had problems with all the stuff you mentioned–the victim-blaming, repetitiveness, etc.

    I also found the plot either way too transparent (is there anyone who *didn’t* know that Silas was going to turn out to be the would-be werewolf about a hundred places before any of the characters did?), or completely nonsensical. Why does no one else in the world know about the werewolves? Why did these two sisters take it upon themselves to single-handedly hunt them all down?

    I also really, really hated Scarlett’s holier-than-thou martyr complex. Ugh.

  • Kelly L.
    August 4, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Interesting discussion! I really enjoyed the book but also got angry at this passage…I think the way I dealt with it was by ascribing the belief to Scarlett as a character rather than to the book. (I had forgotten Silas chimed in on it too.) In this scene I read Scarlett as actually kind of secretly envying the girls for their looks and lightheartedness, and justifying her negative feelings by telling herself she’s just worried about them getting eaten. She’s on a big martyr trip here, and I think I overlooked the comment I didn’t like because it just sort of rolled into this whole character I didn’t like much at that point in the book. Silas saying it is more problematic for me because it makes it sound more like a unified message, even if it wasn’t meant to be.

    And I definitely understand how one thing can wreck a book for a person, especially when it’s a YA book and especially when the issue is rape or abuse. I just finished Raised by Wolves and had huge problems with its representation of abuse.

  • Emily
    August 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    This passage is deeply upsetting, the attacks (female victim, victimization directly related to higher levels of feminine performance with male perpetrators) are a metaphor for the power dynamics in our society that all too often result in rape.

    That being said, I find it interesting that the author clearly states that victim blaming, the cultural cornerstone of regulatory gendered power dynamics, is not her intention. The problem with much of rape culture is the degree to which it saturates our socialization, to the point that many people are not even aware of when their actions or words perpetrate this insidious system.

    I believe the author had no intention of engaging in victim blaming, nonetheless, that is what is on the pages she wrote. I believe she even intended to portray a positive model in this text. But here, that is not what fell out on the page.

    What is most disturbing here is that the author wrote a classic scene of victim blaming and power binaries based on stereotypes, and not only didn’t realize that she was participating, regurgitating and enacting rape culture, but she thought she was combating it.

    There are a number of text analysis methods, like critical discourse analysis, that one can use to break down a scene like this to evaluate the actual messages it bears. Sadly, this scene has little to do with the author’s probable intentions.

    Props to the reviewers for picking up on the victim blaming and calling it clearly and succinctly for what it is. I discovered this blog through a link from another review site and am subscribing here too.

  • Jude
    August 6, 2010 at 6:02 am

    This is a really, really useful review, and I’m glad to have read it.

    It’s really damning that something by the completely obnoxious sexist jerk Willingham is superior.

  • LiLi
    August 7, 2010 at 8:46 am

    It was the same for me too! After the first 100 pages, I just couldn’t get past the characters themselves. They had no real potential to become anything that they weren’t already, like you said, no space for character-developing. I really wanted to throw the book at my bedroom wall and be done with it. Considering the ARC wasn’t mine, I couldn’t, sadly. 🙁

  • Vixy
    August 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    …The problem with much of rape culture is the degree to which it saturates our socialization, to the point that many people are not even aware of when their actions or words perpetrate this insidious system.

    What is most disturbing here is that the author wrote a classic scene of victim blaming and power binaries based on stereotypes, and not only didn’t realize that she was participating, regurgitating and enacting rape culture, but she thought she was combating it.

    This this this. Oh god, this. I, too, believe the author when she says that victim-blaming wasn’t her intention. Nonetheless, that’s what she wrote.

    Not just “that’s how people read/interpreted it” as some comments are saying. That’s what’s actually in the words on the page.

    Depressing, that.

  • pomot
    August 9, 2010 at 4:04 am

    @Vixy: No.

    That’s how you have interpreted it. I, and plenty of others in this discussion have interepreted it differently.

  • Bear Bahoochie » Fairytale Reads
    August 29, 2010 at 7:14 am

    […] is an interesting debate over at The Book Smugglers about why they didn’t like it. The passage where it is suggested that girls would […]

  • Rape Culture in YA or a Witch Hunt on the rise? | Bookalicious
    September 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    […] all seem to start when The Book Smugglers reviewed Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red book. I haven’t read the book so I cannot say […]

  • Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce (2010) « Dog Ear
    December 4, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    […] has been a fair amount of discussion over at Book Smugglers about a certain passage some have interpreted as a metaphor for […]

  • Camille Strange
    February 2, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I’d just like to let you know that this book was amazing beyond belief. And the passage with the dragonfly girls just showed how naive some girls are. And this proves how naive a reviewer can be to a good book. Sisters Red is a phenomenal novel and I loved it. If you feel inclined to review books then I don’t know, try knowing something about books first. Jackson’s writing is littered with metaphors and beautiful complex symbolism, and it’s obviously gone right over your head. You may feel strongly about Sisters Red, but just know that I feel strongly about your opinion of Sisters Red. So you fail Ana, you fail. Your uneducated review of this fantastic novel appalls me. I just hope that you will think a little bit before you judge a book. If this is how you feel, then it’s obviously too good for you.
    And on another account. Next time you write a scathing review for a book, try to be a little bit more civil about it. It only makes you look like a jerk.

  • Camille Strange
    February 2, 2011 at 11:11 am

    You both need to be knocked off your “high-horses” and brought back down to Earth, divas.

  • KMont
    February 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Wow, Camille, that’s kind of harsh, don’t you think? Why so nasty?

    I’m really disappointed that some folks decided to come back to this review after so long name-calling. All because of someone’s list, in which this book was taken off of?? By the way, this review isn’t responsible for Sisters Red being taken off of anything. You need to direct your ire towards Bitch Media, don’t you think? The articles and posts citing this review are also failing to take into account that both Ana and Thea did their best to defend why the book didn’t work for them. For THEM. Not you. Not anyone else. Just them.

    People, discuss the book. Have some dialogue and honest discussion. There’s no need to be petty and nasty just because you may not agree with others. Thea and Ana gave their honest views, and believe me, they are quite down to earth. They know and appreciate that others may not agree and also know that their opinion isn’t the only one.

  • Camille Strange
    February 2, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    And I respect that. I’m not associating with the list. This is about applicable claims being pressed against this book. If it were me, even if I didn’t like a book, I would be slapping F-bombs on it. They may have not liked it but they judged the book on 100 words of it. 100 words. That’s the excerpt they were providing. 100 words. There are 72 THOUSAND words in the book, and their whole point was based on 100 words of it. That is laughable to me really. But Sisters Red has a lot of merits and none of them were mentioned. I feel that just because someone has a blog does NOT give them all power to wrongly review a book without telling their readers positives and negatives about the book so then they can make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase and read the book in question. I saw where someone had mentioned a rape scene in the comments, and in the review and I have read, and reread Sisters Red and there is no such scene. This just proves that the Ana and Thea do not make applicable judgments about this book.
    I will say that I may have been a little harsh, but please understand the state of rage I was in.
    I can say that I am not against bad reviews because it can help the writer grow, but not reviews pinning wrong labels on the book like “rape” and “victim blaming”. That just gets to me. My apologies.

  • Camille Strange
    February 2, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    …in the comments, and…
    Sorry, this is the correction to my comment.

  • Celine
    February 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Camille, I know how hard it is to take a bad review. (Believe me, I know 😀 ) I know it’s difficult to listen to someone painting an unflattering portrait of something that matters dearly to you, or to step back when someone seems wilfully determined to misinterpret work you love. But such is the life of an author. You write your book, you hand it out and then you accept that folks will discuss it as they see it.

    This is Thea and Ana’s book blog. It is here solely for the purpose of giving Thea and Ana’s opinions on the books they read. Often terrificly interesting conversations happen as a consequence 🙂 (and this is one of those sites where folks really discuss stuff. It’s certainly no echo chamber where all the commenters follow along like little sheep baaing their agreement. With every review Thea and Ana freely leave themselves open to criticism and debate.)

    In Thea and Ana’s opinion this book is x, y and z. They have stated clearly why it is x, y and z to them. They have read the entire book, they have thought deeply about the entire book and then they have stated their opinions clearly, in detail and quite succinctly. This is what they do.
    You may not agree with them ( clearly you don’t 😀 ) But I can assure you that as reviewers their methods and their attitude to reviewing is above reproach. There are an awful lot of bad review sites out there where reviews are written with no other purpose than scoring points off the author or impressing readers with snark – this isn’t one of those sites.

  • Camille Strange
    February 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Okay, fair enough. I assure you, I am fully involved in the writing industry and I know how these reviewing sites work. I’ve gotten my fair share of negative critiques but as you said, Ana and Thea’s opinions are x,y, and z. And opinions are a, b, and c. Please, refrain from lecturing me on my opinion. This whole discussion has gone from Sisters Red to condemning me for having and voicing my opinion, and I will not have it.

  • Camille Strange
    February 2, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    …And my opinions are…
    Sorry for the correction

  • Celine
    February 3, 2011 at 12:52 am

    This whole discussion has gone from Sisters Red to condemning me for having and voicing my opinion, and I will not have it.
    Er… nope. I was pointing out that you may have your opinion, but that it is uncalled for to say things like this

    ‘If you feel inclined to review books then I don’t know, try knowing something about books first’

    and this

    ‘Your uneducated review of this fantastic novel appalls me. I just hope that you will think a little bit before you judge a book. If this is how you feel, then it’s obviously too good for you.’

    and this

    ‘You both need to be knocked off your “high-horses” and brought back down to Earth, divas.’

    these are reflections on the reviewers and their ability/right to review and not articulate defences nor expressions of opinion about the book. It’s a poor reflection on you that you see them as a lecture on your opinion. I think I’ll step away now, I’ve said my piece and you are quite obviously too exercised to listen to even the most civil of criticism and have a discussion like an adult.

  • Celine
    February 3, 2011 at 12:56 am

    I meant to say ‘It’s a poor reflection on you that you see my pointing them out to you, as a lecture on your opinion.’

  • Estara
    February 3, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Can I just say that I’ve read through your follow-up discussion, Camille and Celine, and I totally agree with Celine.

    This was criticism done right and clearly explained why and when the reviewer could NOT accept the interpretation of what the author was saying according to how she read the text.

    She showed clearly why she was emotional and quoted where it happened, so the readers can even decide for themselves just by reading her review if they agree or not. Ana finished the book in the hope of it being redeemed, Thea threw up her arms and added some more emotional criticism (I agree that the Fenris bit was somewhat over the top by then), but it would have made no sense for her to repeat all the things Ana had already said. She also didn’t finish the book – I think that’s fair considering this is a two-person blog.

    They’re not perfect reviewers, but I haven’t come across a perfect review blog yet – and if I did it probably would only be my own definition of perfection ^^.

  • Rhiannon Lassiter
    February 3, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Like others, I have found my way here from the Bitch magazine controversy post. I hope it’s not too much of a shock to the editors here to find themselves being pinged months after writing this review.

    I wanted to say that I thought the review was fascinating and it helped to have the transcript of the text. It’s very clear to me that Jackson Pearce is an excellent writer.

    That said, I agree with the critique the editors made of that particular passage. I respect Jackson’s comment that this was not her authorial intention. But my reading of the text given here is completely contrary to her comment that “This section, and this book, in many ways, is trying to point out that no matter HOW you dress/look/are, you have the right to fight back and be strong. You have the right to put on makeup and still wield and axe, or, if you prefer, not. You have the right to NOT be a victim.”

    I will now have to read the book so I can decide for myself what I think of it. Thank you though, for prompting and hosting such an interesting and thoughtful discussion. I hope you don’t take too much flack for it.

  • Camille Strange
    February 3, 2011 at 9:41 am

    What some of you fail to realize is that a book is sometimes just a book. Sometimes there is no deeper meaning, and no overarching statement. I did not read this in the book, and I do feel that it was wrong for Ana and Thea to base their whole opinion on 100 words. Jackson was not supporting victim-blaming. She was trying to portray how naive some girls can be and ponder the question “Would these girls dress like this if they knew what could happen to them because of it.” You can interpret as you will, but I never got even the slightest hint of victim-blaming in any of the text.

  • Symfora
    February 4, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Oh where to begin. You opinion is valid, but how should I put it, maybe the way you called her writing, STUPID. Your missed the point entirely, the whole section is about jealousy and ignorance. They want to be the ones who don’t know anything and are all dressed up. Both points of view from Silas and from Scarlett are accurate to the characters. You want a book that is entirely politically correct go read ‘The hungry catapillar’ oh wait that could be endorsing famine!

  • Camille Strange
    February 4, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Symfora is right.

  • Anonymous
    February 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm

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  • Anonymous
    February 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm


  • Anonymous
    February 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Camille Strange said it

  • jjrowan
    February 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    You commented on the fact that Scarlett uses a hatchet, and also why wouldn’t she use a gun. If you really think and consider what happened to her it makes sense.
    Scarlett uses it to be in close combat with the fenris. Like in most stabbing cases people use knives to let out emotions rather than a gun. Wouldn’t this make sense since Scarlett does have anger and want personal revenge on all the fenris?
    A gun shows lack of emotional connection to the victim being killed. SO, it does make sense to use a hatchet rather than using a gun.

  • Celine
    February 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    In case anyone is interested, this is how an intelligent, articulate adult argues their case. Margo Lanagan speaks about the Bitch Media List Like The Book Smugglers, Margo (of whom I’m a huge fan, let it be said) knows what it is to express her opinions without resorting to childishness.

  • Celine
    February 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Hmmm – let me try post that link again

  • Katie
    February 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    It is obvious that you did not understand the point of that passage. The author said IF they knew, not they should know. You shouldn’t be a reviewer if you are that close-minded.

  • Camille Strange
    February 4, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Closing statement- Sisters Red is not for those who cannot understand figurative language. And trying to explain that to a close-minded person is like trying to explain government to a 1st grader. Impossible for them to entirely understand it. I’m sorry that some did not understand the book, but you can’t say that I…we…haven’t tried. It’s a GREAT book, if you can use logic.

  • Jenn
    February 5, 2011 at 11:54 am

    You know, I don’t really understand why people try to read deeper into YA Fiction, I don’t. It’s written as simple prose and there is no attempt to re-create War and Peace. It usually reflects the time-period it was written. I have some old Richie Tankersy Clark and Christopher Pike that would make you girls’ brain blow-up if you think that that passage is truly reflective of a rape culture. Scarlett and Rosie are powerful female figures in an age that is just beginning to accept them.

    Sisters Red is a good, quick read. It’s not stellar, but it is a fairly unique telling. Personally, I can relate to their descriptions of the Dragonflies and their thoughts about them. You’ve all seen people like the author was describing, you’ve all had that tingling in the back of your head that starts with “What the HELL was she thinking?”, and it probably ended in a similar way.

    Scarlett, Rosie, and Silas are human heros and with human failings and I honestly think that Pearce does a better job of this than most authors. Who wants a perfect hero? What makes them believable if they don’t have any faults?

    But then I also think that all of you who condemn this book without reading it yourselves are hypocrites and are just re-enacting that passage above that you scream and cry is so very, very wrong.

  • kelly
    February 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    It takes a very brave author to write a character as complexed, bitter, angry, and flawed as Scarlett. And Jackson Pearce did just that. Whoever said that female heroines had to be perfect and politically correct? That would make up for some pretty damn boring books.

    If you girls had not been so heavily engrossed in your self-righteousness you might have appreciated the book, but then again, most close-minded people never do.

  • bram
    February 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I found this blog post particularly vomit-inducing.

    Ignore the haters and keep doing what you’re doing guys! I for one don’t always agree with your reviews but I absolutely treasure them. You guys are one of the few bright points in the YA blogging community.

  • bram
    February 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    btw the ‘vomit-inducing’ line was not directed at this review (because I totally agree with it) but the link I posted below.

    Though the term ‘vomit-inducing’ is a bit childish, I admit. I just didn’t like it.

  • Camille Strange
    February 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    bram, I actually quite enjoyed Scott Westerfeld’s blog post. That guy’s got a clear head.

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglers’ Stash and News: The Bitch Media-Gate Edition
    February 6, 2011 at 8:14 am

    […] brings us to the second reason for writing this post. Our review of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce has been (mis)quoted several times in this whole mess, ever since commenter […]

  • Smugglers’ Stash and News: The Bitch Media-Gate Edition | Jagged Page
    February 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    […] brings us to the second reason for writing this post. Our review of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce has been (mis)quoted several times in this whole mess, ever since commenter […]

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    August 14, 2011 at 6:17 pm

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  • Marie
    August 19, 2011 at 9:28 am

    This is interesting. I recently read Sisters Red, and I have to say I disagree.
    From your excerpt: In my honest opinion and point of view, they did not say that they were ‘asking for it’. They merely wondered if the Dragonflies would dress as such if they knew it was attracting Fenrirs.
    Remember, you are not dealing with human rapists in this book, you’re dealing with Fenrirs, men who can turn into wolves. They don’t seem to actually go around raping, either, just killing. Messily.
    Not every book has some sort of deeper meaning every couple of paragraphs. That’s just plain ridiculous. Go ahead and apply this deeper meaning stuff to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It’s part of the literary nonsense genre, so good luck with that.
    About the romance: Romance is full of clichés, such as this one. If you’d rather not deal with the typical, cliché stuff, then stay away from most romance books.
    If you read the book closely, Scarlett replies to Silas’ suggestion of guns with “Not enough damage to kill them, most likely.” (<Page 277)
    If you think about it closely, it makes some sense, as these are pretty much creatures with high tolerance for damage and don't give up until death, not to mention their remarkable speed and strength. If they manage to get to you, or you run out of ammo, well, guns aren't gonna help you much there. I am aware of such a thing called a 'pistol whip', but that's going to be less effective (blunt).
    Red cloaks are to bait the Fenrirs, because, as she stated, 'the colour of passion, sex, and lust is irresistible to wolves'. They have to lure the Fenrir(s) to a place where people can't see them fight, because Fenrirs are not known to most of the world. Plus, the sisters would get unwanted attention if people saw them fighting a huge wolf and killing it.

    Summary of this comment: I don't really understand why you can't deal with a book that actually didn't really accuse victims (merely just showed that their FICTIONAL BADDIES, emphasis on FICTIONAL, were attracted to people like that as victims for MURDER, NOT RAPE). oh and a couple of other points too but that's the main thing, really.

  • Anonymous
    August 22, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    The difference with rapists is that they (should) have the moral capacity to make decisions of whether or not to rape someone, and they (should) also have enough self-restraint to control their animal lusts if they, for instance, see a scantily-clad girl walking down the street.

    With fenris, however, they don’t have that moral obligation; after all, it’s about feeding – not raping. It’s a matter of survival for them.
    If I knew pulling on a dog’s tail would provoke it to attack me, and I still did it, then it *would* indeed be my own fault if it maimed me.

  • Celine
    August 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Only asking these questions because I’ve been following this disscusion with great interest…

    “With fenris, however, they don’t have that moral obligation; after all, it’s about feeding – not raping. It’s a matter of survival for them.
    If I knew pulling on a dog’s tail would provoke it to attack me, and I still did it, then it *would* indeed be my own fault if it maimed me.”

    From listening to the discussion above I got the impression that the Fenrir are provoked by traditionally accepted western displays of feminine attractiveness – party dresses, make-up, highheels? Is this not the case? It would seem to be the case if the quote in the other comment above is accurate ( ‘the colour of passion, sex, and lust is irresistible to wolves’) If it was the ‘the sight of healthy flesh; the vigor of youth; or even the smell and sight of blood that was irresistible, I’d get the food reference – but then not only young women would be the victims, would they? Any healthy, young human-being would be seen as ‘food’, male and female alike. So it’s hetro-normative, western oriented, perceptions of sexual attractiveness that make the wolves hungry. Is that right?

    Or perhaps only women smell like food? (and all the gay wolves die of starvation) If so would all women not be at risk from the wolves no matter what they looked like or what their age? Would a middle aged lady doing her shopping not be just as tasty as a young girl outside a disco? Or maybe they are? Perhaps the wolves eat a big variety of women in the books nuns, grannies, babies, school girls, middleaged business women on their way to work? If so surely it wouldn’t matter what the ‘bait’ looked or dressed like? Any woman would do – just wave her about somewhere, wait for the Wolves to come along, then shoot their heads off with a shot gun.

    BTW the colour association mentioned above… ‘the colour of passion, sex, and lust’ Does the book explain that association? Is it based on the traditional red light above a prostitutes door? The colour of eastern wedding dresses? Menstrual blood? Is it an historical thing set only in the books canon? (Were women in the past sacrificed in red cloaks, perhaps, and so now the colour signals ‘victim’?) In the story ‘red riding hood’ the red clock is thought to refer to the girl having come into menstruation and therefore becoming ‘prey’ to men until she was safely rescued and married off to the woodcutter – just wondering if it has a more modern significance here?

  • Celine
    August 22, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    cloak – red cloak dammit! Curse my heinous spelling!

  • Kira
    August 25, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Not saying I agree or disagree with the review (well, actually, I agree with a lot of it) but I have to say that I’m having trouble with your complaints about using the word “Fenris”. There’s nothing wrong with Pearce’s mythology. That’s not an opinion; it’s a fact. There’s n logical reason to pick fault with her using the word “Fenris”. She doesn’t HAVE to use the Norse root. In fact, it’s more creative not to. Also, I guess the reason Scarlett and Rosie use hatchets and knives is because, when you’re sixteen, actually getting your hands on a gun is going to be difficult. They’re not going to give these random civilian teens a gun license. Also, people would probably notice what was going on after a while if machine gun fire was heard in the woods.

    Overall, I agree a lot with your review. I also had issues with the whole “beauty wins all”. I don’t know why Scarlett had to end up alone. Was it because her beauty wasn’t as devastating as Rosie’s? I feel like the romance would have been far better had it been there for Scarlett. The message would have been stronger. Part of me thinks that Scarlett and Rosie would have been better had they been merged into a single character that hunted alone. That single character would have had more depth, and the messages wouldn’t be so conflicting and sour.

    Overall, good review. Lots of good points.

  • BBAW 2011: Community Part II « The Literary Omnivore
    September 14, 2011 at 4:04 am

    […] diverse world where white American men are still mostly in power or at least the most visible. The Book Smugglers approached this sort of viewpoint when reviewing Sisters Red, whose abominable victim-blaming I used in a paper last year. Obviously, thinking critically about […]

  • Young Adult Books | Sally Apokedak
    September 19, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    […] radical feminist readers are disappointed when they are expecting a radical feminist read and they…, as are homosexual readers and every other kind of reader. Expectations matter. But that’s a […]

  • Anonymous
    November 4, 2011 at 6:10 am

    with regard to the gun thing – two words: gun laws

  • Angelica
    December 5, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I would have to disagree that Scarlett is blaming the “dragonflies” for being attacked, she simply points out their appearance draws the fenrises to them. Her first night in Atlanta she passes a club and notes the dragonflies appearances even going so far as calling them stupid and wishing she could let a fenris kill them but then she retracts her statement, she didn’t mean it. I’m sure the source of Scarlett’s pain is that she’s living in a world that is still hiding in a cave, which she often references. She was horribly marred and risks her life every night and these girls have no clue. I really loved this book and sometimes it’s good to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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  • Becky
    January 9, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Okay, I’m going to say something that’s probably wildly unpopular, but I’m 49 years old and don’t really care so much about popular these days.

    It’s true that nobody asks to be raped and that rape and other crimes are always the fault of the criminal, but there is such a thing as common sense. As a young woman, I learned basics of self defense. I taught my now-adult daughters to behave in ways that minimize risk – to walk in groups, to be aware of surroundings, not to get drunk with strangers, etc. Seems to me that Scarlett’s observation is along the same lines.

    If the characters espouse philosophies you may not agree with, well, real people espouse philosophies you may not agree with too. It burns me up when people complain that books lack diversity because they don’t have minority/GLBT/disabled characters but have no problem whatsoever when there’s no diversity of thought or opinion. Just because a book is marketed at teens doesn’t mean it has to tow some kind of ideological party line.

  • Olivia
    January 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Some of the comments on this page literally sickened me. I understand and can see why Thea and Ana hated that section of the book, especially enough to put it down. As someone who experienced internalized misogyny/sexism when she was younger, that whole page was smack full of it. It is a subconscious ‘I am better than them because I do x while they do x’. No, you’re not. Just because you act more conventionally’ masculine’ roles doesn’t mean women who act more feminine are less than you.

    It’s the usual ‘blame the victim’ mentality that pervades this society, and it disgusts me to the core. It is stuff like this that helps rapists escape justice.

    And to those who think Thea and Ana ‘over analyzing’ the book- we make the media, and vice visa. Fact is, the media that surrounded me when I was younger told me that being a girl who wore pants made me better than girls who wore skirts or dresses. That those who did were less than me. That wearing those sort of things meant that you were weak. Trust me, I wasn’t told by my parents to think those sorts of things. For some reason, adults like to think that children are extraordinarily stupid, and that they don’t pick up the subtle messages within tv shows and books. They do, and because of that I suffered completely unnecessary emotional conflicts that hurt me as a girl.

    So don’t try and dismiss good analysis as ‘it’s just a book’. No, it’s not. Some girls are reading this book right now and being taught that being girly is a bad thing. That going out and enjoying the night dancing is a bad thing. That flirting is a bad thing. That girls who do these things are bad and are considered less than them.

    None of these things are bad things. Girls should be able to do this if they want to, without anyone judging them or preying on them. People should just learn to be decent human beings. And a way to do this is by stopping the ‘blame the victim’ mentality. That way, actual monsters will be behind bars, not in the nightclubs or whatever, where it will happen again and again and again.

    The world is not a fair place. A woman who is wearing ten layers of clothing is just as likely as the girl wearing a tube top and and short skirt of getting sexually harassed and/or raped. That is the reality we live in, and one that we must try and change.

    @ Becky: It is also common sense for men to not rape, but it happens anyway, doesn’t it?

  • Camille
    January 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    All the points you make are valid except for that they have no evidence. Victim-blaming is not a theme brought up in this book, nor is condemning girls for acting girly. If that’s the impression you got then fine, but it’s certainly not mine nor is it going to be everyone’s. I’m not saying yours is wrong, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

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  • Maddie
    April 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Well, each man to his own opinion, because after I read your review, I read the book and LOVED IT! :mrgreen:

  • Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce « Rhiannon Lassiter
    June 21, 2012 at 7:36 am

    […] Red was charged with victim blaming. The best reasons for the victim-blaming charges relate to a review posted by The Book Smugglers which the author herself took issue with in the comments. (The Book Smugglers also posted an update […]

  • Rape-Culture, Quickly « The Angry Redhead
    July 6, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    […] can read their review for yourself here. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  • Rape-Culture, Quickly | Stranger Than Fiction
    July 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    […] can read their review for yourself here. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  • Ruby's Reads
    July 8, 2012 at 11:12 am

    […] My high hopes for this book were mixed with the low hopes I had after reading The Booksmugglers’ review of Sisters Red. In their joint review, Ana and Thea completely convinced me not to read Sisters Red, but that […]

  • Luna
    August 26, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Not only do I think you are overreacting greatly, I think this is downright unprofessional. You went from reviewing to bashing pretty damn quick, and it seems you are just looking for excuses to hate it – you’re this upset about the word Fenris? Really? Really?!
    I lost all respect for this site after reading this review.
    If you had stuck to the basics I would have been on board. You are entitled to your opinion, and yes, I suppose that excerpt can be read that way (but I think that’s more YOUR thoughts than the author’s thoughts – I didn’t read anything into that before you started bitching about it). But you’re going overboard with it, and bashing and hating it to the point where I don’t even think it’s about the book itself, but your hyped up discussions after having read it.
    Personally I read that excerpt as a continuance of the philosophy of the sun and the cave. These girls still live in the cave, while Scarlett and Silas (and Rosie) live in the sun. Would these girls still act like this if they lived in the sun too?
    You should have thought about the different ways you can interpret this before you go off screaming about rape.
    Now excuse me if I never read another book review here again. I like my book reviews more professional and thought-through.

  • Sisters Red / Jackson Pearce « The Lost and Bound
    December 13, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    […] Feminist Readers (Bitch Media, 2011) The decision, at least in Sisters Red case, was based on an online review (2010) from the blog Book Smugglers that found fault with the novel for a scene where two […]

  • The Myth of Strong Female Characters | Taven Moore
    January 24, 2013 at 5:47 am

    […] or … pretty much all of the other female comic book characters. And there’s the discussion about Sister’s Red and the subtle “she was asking for it” rape message that can be […]

  • Yh?
    February 12, 2013 at 7:33 am

    ffs. its a book. (a good one) you little book smugglers… wot? can get a grip. Sisters red is a good book. yes, your opinion is valid. but i think you put your point across badly.

    Get over yourselves.


  • hoeddyy
    February 12, 2013 at 7:39 am

    this is disgusting. i love sisters red. get.a.grip

  • Caitlin Vanasse
    February 21, 2013 at 12:43 am

    I just wanted to say that I appreciate this review. I didn’t see the victim blaming element in the same light you do when I first read the book and I’m not sure if I completely agree with you on it here BUT I did not finish the book either for similar reasons to the ones you give here. Honestly it gets annoying when characters get themselves into crap situations because they cannot communicate honestly with each other, character development, it didn’t go the way I wanted. Also, when I can see the answer coming pages and pages away and I can also see the dumb crap situations characters will get into because they do not see the answers coming pages and pages away, I just have no incentive to finish. I too really wanted to like this book and it simply didn’t work for me.

  • The Problem with Sisters Red | Jenny's Library
    March 28, 2013 at 1:30 am

    […] been a lot of protests on the interwebs against people asserting that this construction reinforces rape culture. Some claim that was never the intent and that any reading that talks about rape is bringing […]

  • snapback hats
    April 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm

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  • karmen
    June 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I read this book, not once, not twice but three times and failed every single time to see where the hell you’re coming from. I consider myself to be a feminist and believe that victim blaming is never ok – and guess what? This book doesn’t do it. The passage you have up there is totally misinterpreted. It does not blame the Dragonflies, it blames the Fenris.
    Let’s think of it this way: if a victim of a shooting had known that they would get shot, would they have worn a bulletproof vest that day? If they victims of 9/11 had known they would die that day, would they have gone to work? By saying this, I am not blaming the victims. I am not saying “Should have known better than to have gotten yourself killed” I am simply wondering if they would have made the same decisions. If someone had told them, they may have avoided death. The people who hold the blame are still the shooters, still the terrorists. End of.
    In the same way, asking if the girls would dress would dress differently if they knew the Fenris existed does not move the blame onto them. Throughout the book, the Fenris are the bad guys, the ones that must be hunted down. The passage wonders whether the girls would be better prepared if they were better informed. If they were told of the Fenris, would they change their lifestyle? Not even their clothes specifically. Would they carry a hatchet? Would they train in self defense? They don’t have to stops dressing in any particular way – Scarlett and Rosie do it! IT IS NOT WRONG!
    Perhaps if you had actually read to the end of the book, the idea of beauty being a flaw is challenged when Rosie stands up to Scarlett and confronts her. Because she is prettier, she is not more vulnerable. She does not need to change the way she is just to “save herself”. She can be who she is and still kick ass. And she does.
    Wow, what a freaking anti-feminist message right?

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  • seven
    December 9, 2013 at 5:25 am

    I liked it. This means that it has a reader.

  • JustABookLover
    April 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I understand where your coming from, and if I didnt know any better I might say u the same thing. Where all in titled to our own thoughts so let me give you another way to look at it.

    To scarelet shes in a whole nother world, shes simply trying to say, if only they knew what was out therem they might not do some of the things they do. If you read on when the two girls are being attacked she says she wish that never happened so they could stay hid from the painful truth. Shes not trying to blaim mm them, just saying what if, trying to get in there head, silas was trying to draw her thoughts out and make her feel better.thats just my take on it, you dont have 2 take it. Just think about it.

  • JustABookLover
    April 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I understand where your coming from, and if I didnt know any better I might say u the same thing. Where all in titled to our own thoughts so let me give you another way to look at it.

    To scarelet shes in a whole nother world, shes simply trying to say, if only they knew what was out therem they might not do some of the things they do. If you read on when the two girls are being attacked she says she wish that never happened so they could stay hid from the painful truth. Shes not trying to blaim mm them, just saying what if, trying to get in there head, silas was trying to draw her thoughts out and make her feel better.thats just my take on it, you dont have 2 take it. Just think about it.

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  • Luke Dai
    February 9, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    Hello Ana,
    I felt that your analysis was really great in showing the negative sides of Sisters Red. I am actually just starting to read it (haven’t gotten past 50 pages yet). I understand that books like these convey a sense of “victims are the ones to blame” (WHICH IS DEFINITELY WRONG!), but I looked at your review a little more neutrally. I don’t think it was the author’s intention to convey that theme. It was, as you mentioned, only a characteristic of Scarlet. Therefore, I don’t think you should completely give up the book because of one certain ideal. Even if you don’t like the characters, don’t hate the story. Thanks for your review!

    PS. To be honest, Scarlett should not have such characteristic. She was a victim so she should realize how she wasn’t the blame of the werewolf attack. This could have been a mistake of the author.

  • Hun
    August 30, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    what the heck?stop criticizing jackson pearce and LOOK IN HE MIRROR!!!!u jealous that u arnt a new york times BESTSELLER???

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