Review: Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

So who remembers a film about a year or so ago with Amanda Seyfried called Red Riding Hood? It looked like a fairly good film actually, quite dark and gritty. Well this is the novelisation of said film. I had thought the film was based on the book, but apparently (unfortunately) not. The producer (who also did Twilight) liked the screenplay so much that she wanted the story to be told in another, deeper, format. And hey, who better to do that than her childhood friend who has conveniently just finished her Creative Writing degree? It explains a lot, trust me.

Valerie’s sister was beautiful, kind and sweet. Now she is dead. Henry, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats fast for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home.

After her sister’s violent death, Valerie’s world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the Wolf has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But now no one is safe. When an expert Wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them – it could be anyone in town.

It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the only one who can hear the voice of the creature. The Wolf says she must surrender herself before the blood moon wanes…or everyone she loves will die.

Believe it or not, I do usually try and write at least moderately balanced reviews – I don’t want to be a gushing pre-teen fangirl, but then I don’t like slating the book, the author and all her descendants unfairly either. Just… okay, look. Keep in mind as you read this review that I’m trying, okay?

Because God, it’s awful. Mind-numbingly horrendous. I was vaguely interested in the film when it was released because I love werewolves, fairytales and Amanda Seyfried. Unfortunately I never got round to it, but I did manage to get my hands on the book. Go me, right? Wrong. I finally got round to reading it last week, and while it’s not a complete and utter waste of a good tree, I do hope the film is better.

The very first thing that stuck me was the clunky writing style. It’s horrendous. It doesn’t flow in the slightest, just clomps its way from sentence to sentence. By the end of the third page I was considering abandoning the whole endeavour; every other sentence was making me cringe. But, as always, I got used to it and found something else to dislike instead.

With this book being a novelisation of somebody else’s screenplay, it wouldn’t be fair to blame Sarah Blakley-Cartwright entirely for the plot faults. In fairness though, the plot itself is more than acceptable. The typical Red Riding Hood story is retold using a werewolf and a psychotic visiting werewolf-slayer. The village has a very Forest of Hands and Teeth feel to it – citizens living in fear on raised cabins, etc. Actually, the more I think about it, the more similar t appears. Even the atmosphere and general tone are similar, but I guess there are only so many ways you can write about an isolated, terrorized village.

So yeah, the plot is fine, it works for me. But good God, the relationships. I haven’t seen the film yet, so I can’t tell is Ms. Blakley-Cartwright has butchered the romance herself, or if she was making the most of someone else’s slaughter-fest. There’s your typical YA love-triangley thing, but I can’t help but feel that Valerie made the wrong choice. I know that you can’t slate a book because the main character doesn’t have the same taste in men as you, but I honestly expected a big twist where she realised how silly she’d been all along and changed her mind. But… no. It makes no sense! There’s no build-up, no relationship. The Insta-Love is apparently excused because she knew the boy in question when they were children, but how on earth does a childhood friend from ten years ago instantly morph into Burning Heap of Lust upon first sight as teenagers? Gaaarrgh.

With such terrible relationship development, it surprised me how well-written the characters themselves actually were. In the introduction, the producer tells us that the author actually spent a lot of time on-set, interviewing the actors about their characters; perhaps that’s why they feel so well-rounded. Of course, I’m sure Ms. Blakley-Cartwright wasn’t at all bothered about meeting celebrities and only visited out of duty to her book, but hey, at least we got some decent characters out of it.

So while I do concede that the plot is acceptable… the ending is not. It really is truly, deeply awful. Again, I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m kind of leaning towards it being the author’s fault on this one. It’s just not explained. I still don’t know who the damn werewolf is. Valerie spends the entire book suspecting somebody different every other sentence (which does get fairly annoying – admit it, you silly woman! You CLEARLY don’t know who it is!) so you’d assume that you’d find out which of her many suspicions turned out to be correct. It was very unsatisfying, as if whoever was actually responsible for it just kind of got bored and gave up (the creator, I mean. I’m not saying that the werewolf got bored and gave up, although I wouldn’t really blame them…).

I’ll be back with a ‘So Whose Fault Was It Then?’ post when I’ve actually seen the film. I’m leaning towards the author personally, but we’ll see. In the mean-time, I’d stay away from both book and film, because I swear – you will regret it.


  1. Ellie Warren says:

    I too thought the film was based on the book, the film looks enjoyable though. It's rare for a book based on a screenplay to be good.

  2. Belle says:

    I hated this book too – so much so that I created a blog so I could post about it! lol. Yep, the review of this book was my very first post. It was worse because when I got the book, the final chapter hadn't been released yet. It just ended. It sucked.
    The movie is better, though still not great. I totally agree, Valerie made the wrong choice.

    1. Hanna says:

      Haha, you have no idea how much that has amused me!

      But how could they release a book that didn't have an ending? That makes absolutely no sense! Why not wait until the movie was released?

      Ah. I was hoping she chose the other one in the film but I guess that would be too much to hope for. I think I will watch it at some point, but I have really low expectations!

  3. Jillian says:

    Aw sucks that the ending was awful! Not looking forward to reading this one. Haven't even seen the movie.

  4. Alexa says:

    The book was alright for me. I read it, but it wasn't particularly memorable.

  5. Hannah says:

    I was curious about this book for the longest time but.. nothing beyond that. Something about it just screamed, "this book is really bad, keep away!" Perhaps it was a terrifically low-starred rating on Amazon which is very very very rare. And it's sad, I want more decent fairy tale adaptations that are preferably better than this! Once Upon A Time is awesome – gimme some novels like that and I'll be happy.

    1. Hanna says:

      We've been watching Once Upon A Time too 🙂 Makes me happy.

  6. Oy, a book based on a screenplay? How often does that end up being fantastic? Not so often, I'd think. I was interested in seeing this movie, too, but never got around to it. I think I'd still like to see it but I will definitely steer clear of the book! Great honest review, though! 😉

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