Jackson Pearce made her debut with As You Wish, a YA novel about a girl who accidentally summons a genie--and then falls in love with him. In Sisters Red, a contemporary retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood," the plot is more intense: sisters Scarlett and Rosie fight the Fenris (aka werewolves) that prey on girls in their Georgia town.
But Scarlett and Rosie have an occasionally strained relationship. Older sister Scarlett is the "tough" one--the physically strong hunter on a self-appointed mission to kill all the Fenris in the world. Rosie feels indebted to Scarlett for saving her life as a child, and though she wants to kill the wolves, she also longs for the normal life of a teenager. Complicating matters, Rosie is also in love with Silas, their hunting partner. Scarlett is in love with the hunt.
In an interview with BookPage, 25-year-old Pearce tells us about writing for an older audience, crafting a "kickass heroine" and her relationship with her own sister, which partly inspired the novel--the first in a new series.
Sisters Red is inspired by "Little Red Riding Hood," but with a twist: this time the wolf--or rather, wolves--are fought, not feared. Did you read any previous retellings of the fairy tale when you were working on the book?
I actually avoided other retellings at all costs until Sisters Red was written and lightly revised. I was terrified that reading something else would mess with my mythology, or I'd see a great idea and be unable to use it since it was already someone else's.
I did, however, read every version of the actual fairy tale I could find--French; German; U.S., Disney-fied sweet versions; super dark original versions. I think by reading the fairytale in its many incarnations, I was more able to find the heart of the story and stick to it.
Did your relationship with your own sister--to whom the book is dedicated--inspire any of the scenes between Scarlett and Rosie?
I think my relationship with my sister inspired and influenced the entire book, to be honest! But there are several scenes that I plucked straight from our childhood. Specifically, one where Rosie is lamenting how when Scarlett got poison ivy, she was allowed to sleep in their mother's bed, and another where both Scarlett and Rosie visit an apple harvest festival and everyone is dressed up in apple-themed clothing and kids have paper apples stapled to their shirts. I have a photo of Katie riding her bike, covered in paper apples with apples painted on her cheeks. I have really big blackmail plans for that photo . . .
Many early reader reviews of Sisters Red have focused on Scarlett's role as a fierce heroine. What do you think makes a character fierce or powerful; is it physical strength, the willingness to kill, cleverness or is there more to it?
I think there's always more to it. Scarlett is immensely physically powerful--I wouldn't want to meet her in an alley! But she's also emotionally fragile, desperate and scared. Rosie is not quite as strong as her sister, but is more confident in herself and her relationships, more willing to let herself be happy. They're both strong--just in very different ways. Neither is necessarily superior, and those obviously aren't the only "versions" of strength in the world.
The Fenris are portrayed as sexual predators. The fight scenes don't shy away from graphic violence (a ripped-off elbow comes to mind). Did you worry about alienating fans of As You Wish, which is written for a younger audience (12 & up vs. 15 & up)? Did you set out to write a book with more "mature" content?
I won't lie, I am worried that fans of As You Wish will be shocked to read Sisters Red, but I couldn't let that stop me from writing Scarlett and Rosie's story the way it needed to be written--and the truth is, there's just no pretty, happy, sweet way for a werewolf to eat innocent girls. Trying to tone down the violence would have felt like lying.
You've said that the names in Sisters Red have significance--Rosie and Scarlett are both related to the color red, and their last name, March, is a reference to Little Women. Can you identify some of the other name references?
Silas' name means forest/wood, and the apartment they move to is on Andern street--Andern is a city where the Grimm brothers lived. The house number, 333, is the number that Little Red Riding Hood is classified as on the Aarne-Thompson classification system for folktales. Screwtape the cat is named after The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
Will Scarlett, Rosie or Silas ever make an appearance in another Sisters Red book?
I'm not sure at this point. The upcoming book, Sweetly, is a companion, not a direct sequel, as is the projected third book in the series. I would love to return to Scarlett, Rosie and Silas, I just don't have a story for them yet!
Sweetly, the second book in the Sisters Red series, is inspired by "Hansel and Gretel." The third book, Fathomless, is a retelling of "The Little Mermaid." Are you interested in adapting other fairytales?
I love, love, love adapting fairytales, and as long as the ideas keep coming, I'll keep writing them. I don't currently have any books planned beyond Fathomless, but I can see that changing in the future.
What drew you to write supernatural novels? Why do you think this genre is so popular with teens right now?
I've always loved to read supernatural novels, so it only seemed natural that I'd also enjoy writing them. I think the genre is especially popular recently because authors are taking more and more risks--adding romance, sexuality, violence, religion, etc. to books that might have been "neutered" 15 years ago, making the stories even more relatable than before.
What young adult writers influenced you?
I loved Lynne Reid Banks' The Indian in the Cupboard, the Boxcar Children series and Harry Potter, as well as classics like Fahrenheit 451 and To Kill a Mockingbird. But to be honest, I think every book you read influences you in someway, for better or worse!
Sisters Red has been described as Little Red Riding Hood meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Are you happy with this comparison? Are you a Buffy fan?
I'm mixed on this--on the one hand, I love Buffy, so. . . hurrah! But on the other, I don't personally think the two stories have THAT much in common. Buffy has an entourage, musical moments, she essentially has superpowers and can come back from the dead. Scarlett and Rosie. . . not so much. I am, however, thrilled that my characters are being compared to such an iconic, kickass heroine.
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Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
Attacked by a Fenris (werewolf) as children, Scarlett and Rosie, now teenagers, don red capes and hunt the creatures. For Scarlett, killing Fenris is her whole life; Rosie is torn between devotion to her sister and desire for a different existence. This modern, urban "Little Red Riding Hood" interpretation, told from the sisters' alternating perspectives, includes plenty of violence, action, and plot twists. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #5
The lives of Scarlett and Rosie March haven't been normal since a Fenris (werewolf) attacked them as young children. It killed their grandmother and left Scarlett permanently scarred and missing an eye. Now the sisters are in their late teens, and, along with their woodsman friend, Silas, they hunt werewolves. Donning red capes and strong perfume to lure the Fenris, Scarlett wields a hatchet while Rosie throws knives in their fights against the vicious creatures that attack unsuspecting females. For Scarlett, killing Fenris is her whole life, and her obsession takes the three hunters from their small town to Atlanta where numerous clans of werewolves congregate in search of the novel's central mystery element: a Potential Fenris ("a man -- or boy -- able to lose his soul and become a monster" from a single werewolf bite). But Rosie is torn between her devotion to Scarlett and her desire for a life outside of hunting -- one that will hopefully include a romantic relationship with Silas. Although some references to "Little Red Riding Hood" are more effective than others, this modern, urban interpretation reinvents the story for older audiences; plenty of violence, action, and plot twists keep it flowing and, for the most part, plausible and innovative. Telling the tale from the two sisters' perspectives in alternating chapters, Pearce skillfully develops the unique voices of two strong heroines at a crossroads in their lives. cynthia k. ritter Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2010 May #2
This is not the tale of Little Red Riding Hood your granny told. In this version, the sisters, Scarlett and Rose (shades of red, anyone?), were attacked by a werewolf-like Fenris and saved by Scarlett's quick action with a broken mirror. The attack left Scarlett with one eye, bite and claw scars and an obsessive drive to rid the world of the Fenris clans. Told from the points of view of the two teens, joined by childhood friend and woodsman Silas, the story combines elements of fantasy and mystery in equal parts. The voices of both sisters are distinctive and clearly differentiated, though the dialogue is sometimes overwrought and melodramatic. The plot unfolds with steadily increasing tension and unexpected twists to a shocking climax. The ending may not be totally satisfying, but it is realistic given the depiction of both young women. This urban fantasy with its scarred heroine and intermittent violence is not for Twilight fans but may well appeal to Melissa Marr's readers and teens who like their fantasy on the gritty side. (Fantasy. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal BookSmack
As young girls, sisters Scarlett and Rosie March survived an attack by the Fenris, which killed their grandmother and left Scarlett without an eye. Now--joined by Silas, the woodsman's son--they hunt these charismatic werewolves, which prey on pretty girls in their small Georgia town. Scarlett wields a vicious ax, while Rosie longs for some normalcy and the chance at a romantic relationship with Silas. The game changes when the three decide to take the hunt to Atlanta, where an unprecedented number of Fenris are gathering. Alternating between Scarlett and Rosie's viewpoints, this urban transplant of Grimm's "Little Red Riding Hood" makes plain the story's violent and sexual overtones. A note to the squeamish: when the oh-so-big-teeth of the Fenris meet the March sisters' savage weaponry, the result is more in keeping with the violence of Susanne Collins's "Hunger" trilogy than with, say, Meyer's "Twilight" saga. Angelina Benedetti, "35 Going on 13", Booksmack!, 12/2/10 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 August/September
Not until she was attacked, did Scarlett actually believe in the Fenris?werewolves that seek out and devour young girls. Following the death of her grandmother and her own recovery from the attack that left her blinded in one eye, Scarlett, along with her sister Rosie, vow to hunt down and destroy the Fenris before they kill young girls throughout the region. With their razor-sharp hatchets and red cloaks, Scarlett and Rosie move from the woodlands to the city, along with Silas, a young woodsman who is the love interest that becomes a divisive wedge between the two sisters. As Scarlett watches romance blossom between Rosie and Silas, she feels that she has no room in her heart for love. Rosie, feeling obligated to hunt alongside her sister, is drawn toward Silas, but at what cost? Told in alternating chapters by the two sisters, this action-packed, albeit somewhat violent fairy tale retelling, will keep fans of dark fantasy and gothic romance engaged as they search for the answers, as well as the werewolves that walk among us. Recommended. Shonda Brisco, Asst. Professor/Curriculum Materials Librarian, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 June #4
The psychosexual implications of "Little Red Riding Hood" have been explored since the days of Bruno Bettelheim, and Pearce (As You Wish) tackles them with enthusiasm in this grisly contemporary reimagining. Scarlett March, 18, scarred and missing an eye after killing the "Fenris" who slaughtered her grandmother, now lives to hunt the werewolflike creatures that relentlessly stalk and murder girls far and wide. Her 16-year-old sister, Rosie, has also been trained to hunt, but feels the tug of a different life and kills Fenris only out of loyalty to her beloved sister. The neighboring woodman's son, Silas, has been a reliable ally, but he, too, has begun to think about other things--including Rosie. Still, all three move from their rural town to Atlanta when the opportunity comes to strike a major blow against the Fenris, the urban landscape becoming the vehicle of discovery for them all. Although it remains fuzzy why the trio shoulders the burden of combating the Fenris alone, rather than exposing the creatures to the rest of the populace, it's a well-told tale that does not suffer from the fairy tale predictability of its outcome. Ages 15-up. (June)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Gr 8 Up--For Scarlett and Rosie March, the world is not what it seems. Werewolves, called Fenris, live among them in the form of good-looking men who prey on pretty young girls. When a Fenris attacked the March girls, it killed their grandmother and left them emotionally and, for Scarlett, physically scarred. Since then, they have taken action and revenge. With the help of a friend, Silas, the girls are on a mission--to destroy as many Fenris as they can. This goal becomes more complicated when they try to unravel the mystery behind the pack and prevent the next "Potential" from transforming fully into a soulless, evil monster. Pearce is on the mark with this modern-day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Told by the sisters in alternating chapters, this well-written, high-action adventure grabs readers and never lets go. Rosie and Scarlett are true heroines; smart, tough, and determined, but their special bond is put to test when Rosie and Silas's relationship becomes more than just friendship. A satisfying read with a fantastic cover.--Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY[Page 120]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.