Book Reviews Young Adult Books

Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci

7 of 10: Rose Sees Red was a little more quirky than I usually go for, but this book, set in Cold War New York City just delighted me.

Sometimes I like reading the same kind of book over and over again (see my Sarah Dessen obsession last year and my more recent Janette Rallison fling).

And then sometimes it’s nice to read something quite different. Rose Sees Red was a little different. And I enjoyed every second of it.

Rose is a freshman in high school and her life is fairly bleak. She’s loved dance her entire life and secretly auditioned for an arts school in New York City. Her best friend growing up is furious about this, feeling completely betrayed (to be honest, this “friend” is a complete jerk, so the betrayal is totally in her own head where the world revolves around her), and has turned all of Rose’s old friends against her.

Rose’s life is also complicated by the fact that she’s not even close to being the best dancer at her school, and she is having a hard time keeping up, fearing that she’ll be kicked out. And she doesn’t have friends at school either, so things are just rough all around.

And if those mundane issues aren’t enough, her neighbor is a girl from Russia and this is the 1980s, so a Russian neighbor is worthy of note. Especially when said neighbor is being trailed by the CIA on a regular basis.

The book itself really only covers a single day, where the Russian neighbor sneaks into Rose’s bedroom and asks to experience a real American evening with her. Rose can’t quite bring herself to admit that she virtually no social life, and so the two of them go downtown to a party and end up having quite the evening.

Of course, Rose knows she’s going to be in mega-trouble when this is all over, but she feels like she has nothing to lose since her life is so bleak anyway.

As I mentioned, the book takes place in the 1980s, in the midst of the Cold War, and with a Russian neighbor, the tensions between the countries is certainly not lost on Rose. I haven’t read a lot of books set in the 1980s where that is considered a historical setting (I mean, Sweet Valley Twins were set in the 1980s, but only because they were WRITTEN in the 1980s). Also, I was born in the 1980s – am I already becoming a historical artifact?!

This is a pretty short book, but the character development that takes place is quite remarkable. I felt like I really knew and understood Rose. There is just not a wasted word in this book – it is so tightly written and communicates the characters, the setting, and the vibrancy of New York City in so few pages.

I just loved this quirky little book.

Copy sent to me by Kelly of Stacked

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