“Smart, funny, and full of awesome . . . everything I look for in a book.” —Rachel Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author of the Hex Hall series
Felicity St. John has it all: loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.
Redheads hold all the power in Scarletville—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note: I know your secret.
Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovers the truth, she’ll be a social outcast faster than she can say strawberry blond.
Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?
“As thought-provoking as it is enchanting.” —Rae Carson, author of the Fire and Thorns trilogy
“Clever, wickedly funny, and with so much heart.” —Melina Marchetta, author of Jellicoe Road, a Michael L. Printz award winner
About the Author
Alison Cherry, author of Red, For Real, Look Both Ways, and The Classy Crooks Club, grew up in a suburb of Chicago and graduated from Harvard. She is a professional photographer and worked as a lighting designer for theater, dance, and opera productions for many years. During that time, she spent six months in the magical, exhausting world of summer stock theater, where everyone works 120 hours a week and survives on a mysterious elixir of caffeine, sugar, and adrenaline. Eleven years later, she’s still trying to catch up on sleep. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Follow @alison_cherry on Twitter and @alison_cherry on Instagram
Read an Excerpt
SUNDAY, MAY 2
The banner fluttering in the breeze outside City Hall read SCARLETVILLE, IOWA: NATIONAL REDHEAD SANCTUARY.
Felicity St. John, who had lived in Scarletville all her life, couldn’t even begin to guess how many times she had encountered the phrase “national redhead sanctuary.” It blasted from her clock radio every morning, repeated over and over by the DJs at Scarletville’s classic rock station, KRED. It was printed under the masthead on the town’s newspaper, the Scarletville Gazette. It was etched onto a plaque on the front of Scarletville High School. And Felicity was probably going to hear the clichéd phrase a hundred times more today.
It was Scarlet Sunday, the anniversary of the founding of Scarletville, and the yearly carnival was in full swing. The lampposts in the center of town were festooned with red flowers, and the breeze carried the popcorn-and-fried-dough smell of celebration. The town was turning seventy-five this year, and the mayor’s carnival committee had really outdone itself. Main Street was lined with food vendors, game booths, and displays of local crafts, as it was every May. But this year, the number of rides in the town square had tripled, and they were significantly more terrifying than usual. Felicity couldn’t even look at the paralyzing vortex of doom called Zero Gravity without feeling slightly ill. Her twin half brothers, on the other hand, had no such qualms. From all the way across the plaza, she could hear Andy’s and Tyler’s seven-year-old voices shrieking with joy as the flying swings whipped them around in dizzying circles. Felicity hoped they would keep their cotton candy securely in their stomachs, but judging from past carnivals, it was highly unlikely.
The mayor must have publicized Scarletville’s anniversary quite aggressively this time aroundthe dinky local press was there, of course, but there were also representatives from neighboring towns, including a reporter from the Des Moines Register. Right now, all the reporters and a sizable portion of the town’s population were gathered in front of the grandstand, where the mayor was holding a press conference. He was just finishing his opening remarks, using the same speech he always gave on Scarlet Sunday. Felicity and her best friends, Haylie and Ivy, had heard it so many times they could recite it along with him.
“Less than four percent of the world’s population is blessed with red hair, and in my grandfather’s day, those redheads were scattered far and wide across the globe!” boomed the mayor. “And to add insult to injury, these poor scattered redheads were often much maligned in their communities, where they were considered oddballs and curiosities. Our priceless recessive genes would have been bred out of existence within fifty years had no one stepped up to prevent it! But my forward-thinking grandfather saw that we should bond together in solidarity, making precious redheaded children and raising them in a safe, supportive environment. Let’s hear it for Scarletville, our nation’s one and only redhead sanctuary!” The crowd applauded wildly, as it always did.
When the mayor finished the Gospel of Scarletville, reporters peppered him with questions about the town’s history and redheadedness in general. A small blond journalist raised her hand high. “Mayor Redding!” she called. “How would you respond to the accusation that Scarletville discriminates against people with other hair colors, particularly among the younger generations? According to my sources, the student council, the Scholastic Bowl, the cheerleading squad, and several of the athletic teams at the high school are composed exclusively of redheads.”
The mayor’s undersized orange mustache twitched like an agitated chipmunk, and Felicity had to work hard not to snicker. “Of course we don’t discriminate against people with other hair colors,” Mayor Redding said. “We love all our children here in Scarletville. But are we really to blame if we’ve created an environment where redheads can blossom and live up to their full potential?” There were shouts of approval. “Besides, nearly seventy-five percent of the students at Scarletville High are redheads. Statistically, it makes sense that most of our highest achievers would have red hair. Redheads are Scarletville’s finest natural resource!” This was another of the mayor’s pet phrases.
“Do you think Redding can possibly be his original family name?” Ivy whispered. “His grandfather must have changed it back in the day, right? Don’t you think it’s just a little too convenient?”
Felicity shook her head, and her long, sideswept bangs fell into her eyes. “There’s just something about that mustache. I can’t get over it.”
Haylie smacked her on the shoulder. “Don’t bash Mayor Redding. I think he’s adorable.” One of the news vans on the corner crept a little closer, and Haylie eyed it with excitement. “Hey, do you think we’ll be on the news?”
“You won’t, shorty,” Ivy snorted. “All the cameras will be able to see are two little red buns with butterfly barrettes.”
Haylie looked outraged. “Look who’s talking! You’re half an inch taller than me, if that!”
Felicity always felt like a giant next to her best friends. She was only five seven, but she had a good five inches on both of them.
“The difference is that I don’t want to be on the news,” Ivy said.
“Want me to carry you on my shoulders, Hays?” Felicity offered. “You weigh about forty-five pounds. Hop on.”
“I’m such a shrimp. I’m never going to win the Miss Scarlet Pageant with stumpy legs like these.”
Haylie was a ballerina and had an appropriately tiny frame, but she was anything but stumpy. “Haylie, short people win pageants all the time,” Ivy said. “Don’t you ever think about anything besides the stupid Miss Scarlet Pageant? Why do you care so much?”
“It’s not stupid! And how could you not care? They’re announcing the competitors as soon as the press conference is over!”
“I don’t care because I didn’t enter. Which part of me says ‘pageant girl’ to you? Is it my flowing tresses? Or perhaps my bodacious bosoms?” Ivy gestured to her rust-colored hair, which was cropped in a messy pixie cut, and her virtually nonexistent boobs. Today she was dressed in her swim team T‑shirt, a fleece vest, cargo pants, and flip-flops. Ivy in a ball gown made about as much sense as Mayor Redding in pink footie pajamas.
To be honest, Felicity didn’t see herself as a beauty queen, either. Haylie was the one who had always loved the town’s pageants. But Felicity had done them both with her: Little Miss Scarlet when she was eight, Miss Ruby Red at twelve. And now here she was, a junior in high school, waiting to see if she had been chosen to compete for the all-important title of Miss Scarlet. Countless times, she had considered backing out and saying she just wasn’t interested in pageants.
But there was no chance of that. Not when her mom was the one who ran them.
Ginger St. John had been crowned Miss Scarlet the year the town turned fifty, and from the moment that crown landed on her head, the pageant was the love of her heart. She had been grooming her daughter to follow in her footsteps since Felicity had been two years old. Felicity suspected her mom had gotten pregnant at twenty-five on purpose, just so her daughter would be the right age to compete in Scarletville’s seventy-fifth-anniversary pageant.
And so far, Felicity had done everything right. She had been born a girl. She had dutifully played with the other little girls Ginger considered potential stars. At her mother’s urging, she had learned to pose, answer interview questions, and strut down catwalks. To be a better pageant contestant, she had taken tap, jazz, and ballet with Haylie instead of the art classes she’d really wanted. And although she didn’t enjoy competing, she had grown quite good at ither fear of disappointing her mom had always motivated her to work hard. She hadn’t won anything so far, but she had been first runner‑up in the Miss Ruby Red Pageant, to Ginger’s unending delight.
Miss Scarlet was Felicity’s final pageant, but it was also the most important one. It was her last chance to become the winner her mom expected her to be. And the prize money that came with the title would be a huge help to her family. As Ginger constantly reminded Felicity, fifteen years of costumes and dance classes didn’t come cheap.
The mayor concluded his remarks, and Felicity’s mom approached the podium. The whole town grew quiet as Ginger adjusted the microphone. Haylie forgot about her argument with Ivy and grabbed both her friends’ hands for moral support. Her grip was so tight that her nails carved little crescents into Felicity’s skin.
“Hi, everyone!” Felicity’s mom beamed at the crowd. “My name is Ginger St. John, and I’m the director of the Scarletville Pageant Committee! I’m here to announce the competitors for this year’s Miss Scarlet Pageant!” The crowd roared its approval. “There are seventy-eight eleventh-grade girls this year, all of whom are eligible for the competition, and sixty-four of those young ladies chose to enter. Our competitors were selected based on their photos, their accomplishments, and their essays about how holding the title of Miss Scarlet would help them achieve their personal goals. I just want everyone to know what a tough decision we had this year. All you girls are spectacular, and I wish we could have taken everyone. But as always, there are only twelve slots in the competition.” She made an exaggerated sad face, and Felicity sighed. She hated it when her mom slipped into beauty queen mode and mugged for the crowd.
“But enough suspense! Let’s get to it! Georgia, may I have the envelope, please?”
Georgia Kellerman, the reigning Miss Scarlet, left her seat near the podium and strutted across the stage. There was a storm of screams and whistles from the candy apple booth, where the cheerleaders were assembledGeorgia was their captain and queen. Today she was wearing her Miss Scarlet sash and crown over her cheerleading uniform, which should have looked ridiculous but somehow came off as chic. Her curled red hair hung loose to the center of her back and bounced as she walked. Had she been auditioning for a shampoo commercial, she would have booked the job for sure. When she reached the podium, she did a little spin, then presented Felicity’s mom with a large red envelope.
“Thanks, Georgia! Before I read the names, I just want to assure everyone that I did not help choose the contestants this year. That wouldn’t have been fair, since my Felicity’s in the running.” Ginger blew a kiss to Felicity, who blushed and wished she had something larger than her garden-gnome-sized best friends to hide behind.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. This year’s Miss Scarlet contestants are . . .”
Felicity’s heart started hammering, and she squeezed Haylie’s hand tightly. If she wasn’t chosen, her mom might never recover. She was Ginger’s only daughter, her one and only chance to relive the most glorious experience of her life. If Felicity failed her now, seventeen years of careful planning would crumble to nothing. The weight of responsibility pressed down on Felicity until she felt like someone had piled several boulders on her lungs.
Ginger pulled a piece of paper out of the envelope and unfolded it. Felicity searched for a telltale facial twitch indicating whether her name was on the list, but her mom’s expression didn’t change at all. “Madison Banks!” she called with a smile.
Madison was next in line to be cheerleading captain, and there was another round of screaming from the candy apple booth. She had won the Miss Ruby Red Pageant in seventh grade, so it was no surprise that she would be competing again. Her perky red ponytail bounced wildly as she jumped up and down and hugged her teammates. Felicity and Ivy made gagging gestures at each other, but Haylie seemed too nervous to notice anything except that the first name hadn’t been hers.
Again, this was no surprise. Lorelei had been the star of last fall’s production of Little Shop of Horrors and had played the lead in Annie the year before. It was a good day for the Griffin family. Earlier that morning, Lorelei’s mother had won the Magnificent Mommy award for having produced seven redheaded children, the highest number in the community. It was a good thing the award came with a hefty check, as she was rumored to be pregnant again.
Felicity barely had time to brace herself before Haylie came flying into her arms. “I made it I made it I made it!” her friend shrieked at the top of her lungs, drowning out the crowd’s applause. Ivy squeezed both of them, forming a Haylie sandwich, and Felicity struggled to stay on her feet. She was happy for Haylie, but that was three names down alreadythere were only nine slots left. What if she didn’t make the cut?
Haylie clambered back down to the ground as Ginger called Cassie Brynne’s name. “Don’t worry,” she said, reading Felicity’s mind. “You’re definitely going to make it.”
“You don’t know that for sure.”
Haylie rolled her eyes. “Um, hel-lo, you have the reddest hair in the whole school. I wish I had your color.” Her hair was lighter than Felicity’s, closer to carrot than copper. “And you’re the best artist, and you’re smart, and you’re so pretty. And everyone loves you. And, um, your mom runs the freaking pageant.”
“That doesn’t help. My mom didn’t get to vote,” Felicity said, but she felt buoyed by her friend’s compliments. There were still eight names to go. Maybe everything would be fine.
“Ariel Scott!” called her mom, and a small group of strawberry-blond girls near the edge of the grandstand shrieked with joy. Ariel was so overwhelmed that she started to cry.
“Ariel? Seriously?” scoffed Haylie. “Her hair’s hardly even red!”
“They always put one strawbie in the pageant,” Ivy said. “It looks bad if they don’t. Especially after the mayor’s whole speech about ‘loving all our children regardless of their hair color.’ ” She twitched her upper lip in an imitation of Mayor Redding, and Felicity giggled despite her nerves.
“But, I mean, it’s called the Miss Scarlet Pageant for a reason,” Haylie said. “It should really be for redheads only, don’t you think?”
Felicity had just opened her mouth to respond when her mom called, “Ivy Locklear!”
Ivy’s eyes widened until they were dangerously close to popping out of their sockets. “What?” she gasped as Haylie jumped up and down, squealing and clapping. “But I How did this I didn’t”
“I did your application for you, doofus. I wrote your essay about how you wanted to assert your feminine side because people see you as such a jock.”
“Are you kidding me? How could the committee possibly have believed that?”
“It’s exactly what they want to hear! There’s nothing they like better than a reformed girl who’s seen the light and realized how important pageants are.” Haylie beamed. “Don’t be mad, Ives. I just wanted the three of us to do this together, like we always used to dream about when we were little! Don’t you remember how we played Miss Scarlet every day at recess?”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Original Review: literarychaos.com I don't know what I expected from this book, but I was definitely not impressed. I bought this book only because it was on sale, and now I know why it was so cheap. I was very unimpressed by this book, and I went in with very low expectations. The book just came off as too juvenile, even for a Young Adult book. I think that this book may have been better suited if written for a younger audience like middle-grade. The plot was so cliche, there really wasn't anything new to the plot. It was the kind of plot that the reader feels like they have read time and time again. There was just nothing new or innovative to the plot. I was able to guess every plot twist that happened. It was just far too predictable. For me, the main downfall of this book was the characters. Felicity's mother was awful. I have read my fair share of oblivious or crappy parents in Young Adult Literature, but she really takes the cake. She was so self-absorbed, and only cared about what she wanted for her daughter. She was so unsupportive and more than that she was an awful person. Then there was her friend, Haylie, she was possibly one of the worst characters I have ever read. She was so entitled, she was prejudice against non-red heads, and most of all she was an awful friend. Felicity as a character was not awful, but not great. She was a little better than her self-absorbed people she surrounded herself with. However, I constantly found myself annoyed by her because she had such skewed priorities, and was portrayed as so naive to the outside world. Despite her drawbacks, I did have high hopes for her. I really wanted her to have a great character arc, but the book, unfortunately, did not give this to me. She did have a character arc, but it felt subpar and forced. Would I recommend this book: maybe, it depends on the age of the reader. A younger reader, say 10-12, may really enjoy this book and learn some lessons from the book as well, but for an older reader, I would say don't waste your time, it is a quick read but not really worth it, in my opinion.
I’ve wanted to read this book since the moment I laid eyes on it. It sounded like something completely different; a story not centered on romance. Different it was indeed, but also not. The entire story focuses on Felicity living in a town which is a known haven for redheads. Scarletville celebrates the birth of every redheaded baby, has a community college with free tuition for students born with red hair, and affords loads of opportunities and privileges to its townsfolk born with a head of hair of the copper variety. Heck, it even has a social networking site specifically, and exclusively, for redheads as well as – to the mayor’s consternation - a secret underground hair salon for the redhead wannabe. You get the picture, right? So what happens if you’re like Felicity, one of the unfortunates whose mop of hair is any other color but red? Well, in Scarletville, you’ll pretty much then be ignored and considered a zero. But here’s the thing. Nobody knows that Felicity’s hair is a dyed red. Shocking! At least, in Scarletville it’s definitely a no-go. ~Her mom had spent seventeen years forcing her into a mold she didn’t fit, but Felicity knew that every moment had been out of love. It wasn’t just about the prize money-Ginger believed in Miss Scarlet with her entire heart and soul and truly thought this was the best possible path for her daughter.~ But there’s much more to it than Felicity hiding her true hair color. Red is a story about self-worth, the courage it takes to be true to yourself, and becoming who you want to be instead of living up to everybody else’s expectations of you. When Felicity is blackmailed by another student who has discovered Felicity’s secret, she’s faced with quite the dilemma. Should she allow the other girl to continue blackmailing her, or should she risk coming out with the truth, expose her mother as a fraud, face humiliation and be ostracized by half the town? It might sound like a simple solution to just tell the truth and be done with it, but you see, Felicity has a lot to lose if she does. First off, I really liked the idea for this story. It has a little romance in it, but it’s not the heart of the story, which goes to show that it is possible to write an enjoyable teen novel without throwing a boy in the mix to make it all better for the female protagonist. For that alone I salute this author. But, like I said, the story does have a tiny bit of romance in it, which gives it that feel-good edge at the end, although for me it wasn’t really a satisfying finale and it all concluded on a slightly gloomy note. However, I enjoyed getting to know the small town of Scarletville and its prejudice against persons not born with red hair. The characters are relatively standard and nothing about them really stood out for me. The only character that had a bit of an impact on me was one of Felicity’s best friends, Ivy. That girl had spunk and attitude, and she brightens up the story a whole lot. Red is an enjoyable, clean read suitable for middle grade readers and up. It is also a quick read which I finished in a matter of hours. Overall I’d recommend this book to all teenage girls as it focuses on character building and self-confidence. Although it lacks the humor and pizzazz of books by authors such as Meg Cabot and Miranda Kenneally, I’d also recommend it to fans of those authors books.
THIS IS THE WORST BOOK EVER NEVER READING THIS DESCRIPTION IS HORRIBLE RED IS NOT ON MY LIST!
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Quercus books and Netgalley.) Felicity lives in Scarletville, a place where redheads are revered. Felicity has envious red hair, but would die if anyone knew that it was only red due to frequent trips to a top-secret salon. When someone discovers Felicity’s secret, and begins to blackmail her, Felicity sees no choice other than to give in to her blackmailer, even if it means being made to look a fool. Who is blackmailing Felicity? And how can she put an end to it? This was an interesting story, but it wasn’t quite as good as I thought it would be. Felicity was an okay character, but she didn’t have quite the backbone I expected. For one of the popular girls she was actually really quite lacking in self-esteem, and I was shocked at how she really believed that her life would be over if people knew she was a blonde rather than a red head. The storyline in this was okay, but I expected more tension, and I expected the blackmail to be a little more suspenseful and well, bad. Instead the threats seemed fairly tame, the things that Felicity was expected to do, were again fairly tame, and the identity of the blackmailer took her all of 10 seconds to work out. If Felicity had actually had a bit more self-worth she wouldn’t have been falling all over herself in case her roots were showing, and would never have given in to such a lame attempt at blackmail. The ending to this was okay, but was again pretty tame, and I didn’t feel that the events of the story really had all that much impact on anyone but Felicity, which wasn’t really all that exciting really. Overall; an okay story, but I expected more. 6.75 out of 10.
I've always been a sucker for realistic fictions, and this one started pretty good. Oh oh, you're probably thinking "why did she just say started?", because it went pretty downhill after that. Yes, I was disappointed. I really liked the idea, and the plot was interesting, it just didn't go into the direction I wanted it to be. I'm not saying it was a bad book or anything, I enjoyed it, but it just wasn't as good as I had hoped it would have been. The main protagonist, Cole, lives in a small town called Webster. After his mother passed away last year, he's been wanting to get out of the "Web", as they call it. His guidance then gives him a pamphlet of film school in vancouver, and he decides to start the short film for the application, and then study there. The characters were great. To me, Cole seemed like a very confused kid. He has a great girlfriend, who he suddenly decides to break up with. He doesn't even bother speaking with his dad, or try to communicate with him as family members should do. Cole's best friend, Greg, doesn't even like the fact that Cole broke up with Lauren, and everything is just messed up. Towards the middle, somethings were just confusing in this book. The plot was all over the place, and I didn't really get much of anything. I still read on though, and I was glad that things weren't confusing anymore. Another important factor is the romance, and let me tell you, the romance was literally all over the place! I was not happy with how it ended in the romance part, and I just did NOT understand Cole. It really frustrated me. Overall, this book was good. You might think I hated it from my review, but it was an ok book. There were somethings I hoped would have been different, but I really liked the ending (aside from the romance). If I had to give this book a mood, it would be quiet. It felt very quiet to me. I would definitely look into Tanya's future books, and I would recommend this to any of those who like realistic fiction/contemporary books.
3.5 Stars 'Red' is a smart and thought provoking young adult contemporary novel that follows popular girl Felicity St. John as goes about her normal life in the small town of Scarletville, Iowa. Only, Scarletville isn't your normal town. It was founded to be a safe haven for red-heads and has continued to allow anyone with red hair power and popularity. Red hair is everything that matters in Scarletville, from high school popularity to getting into the local community college, and getting good jobs in town. Felicity is riding high as one of the most popular red-heads in town and has been prepping for the Miss Scarlet pageant with her mom since she was old enough to walk. Only Felicity has a big secret - her brilliant red hair is fake. It's dyed - which is a crime and a sin in Scarletville. When Felicity finds a note in her locker that states "I know your secret," she must put everything and everyone she loves in the line of fire to keep her secret safe - no matter what. This was a very interesting book that has a fantastic moral to it. It took me awhile to get into the book and the pace was a little slow until about halfway through, but once the mysterious notes start showing up - things get really interesting fast. The characters were well written, especially our heroine Felicity. She's the perfect example of a teenage girl - on the outside she has everything: popularity, beauty, smarts, a gift at creating art, and her beautiful red hair. But on the inside, Felicity harbors the secret about dying her hair and it haunts her every day of her life. She feels like she's hiding who she truly is and with her mom and the rest of the town shoving the pageant down her throat and a secret blackmailer threatening to expose her darkest secret. There were times in the book that I really wanted to yell at her or smack her to get her to open her eyes to what was so obvious to me, but in the end it all works out. The plot hits on really important issues that teens and people of all ages deal with today - prejudice and bullying. In the book people are treated differently based on what color hair they have, with redheads being at the top of the chain and everyone else being almost second class to them. When prejudice and bullying over something so stupid as hair color is described in the book - and the extent that it goes - it really opens the readers eyes to what prejudice and bullying is doing to our society (or at least it should). I almost feel like the prejudice against hair color was a stand-in or metaphor for other prejudices that happen and if one stops to think about it, just how close minded and ignorant it is. I remember high school vividly and such prejudice and bullying occurred on a daily basis and usually over the stupidest things like not having the right brand name clothes or not wearing the cool new shoes or whatever fad that was "in" at the time. People were pushed around for everything and anything that set them apart - and it's a truly horrible thing. I'm glad that the schools are trying to adhere to a zero tolerance policy on bullying, but some things just won't change that easily. This book really opened my eyes to lots of issues that affect most people - self-esteem issues, bullying, prejudice, overbearing parents, and self acceptance. This story might read as a light, fun, and witty book, but it definitely deals with deeper issues. Definitely recommended for fans of contemporary YA fiction and those looking for realistic teen fiction. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.