by Kathryn Erskine [YA Erskine]
Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine is deserving of multiple literary awards. It's that good. First, Seeing Red is about relationships, ones between families and ones with neighbors. Red's dad has just died. Erskine has effectively explored reactions to death in her previous novels. Having even myself grieved in different ways, I appreciated that in Seeing Red each family member is handling grief in their own way and learning to respect their differences. Because Red's dad ran a business, the family also has a lot of dealings with neighbors. Some are good, some are not so good. Of the novels I've read by Erskine, Seeing Red has the most complex range of characters. Seeing Red is also about bullies and racism. Bullies come in different forms. As a teacher, I have read and watched enough about bullying to know there aren't any simple answers. Erskine recognizes this, while also making clear that the solution lies within each of us. As for racism, I also respected Erskine's exploration of it. When Red tried to walk away from a gang, and they threatened him, he backed down. He agreed to hit the schoolmate. And immediately regretted it. But also had to live with it, because that schoolmate had been a friend. Later, when Red started to dig through his dad's desk in preparation to move, he discovered a land claim that led to his realization that one of his ancestors had murdered a black person. He didn't want to acknowledge this fact. Yet to deny it would mean being dishonest in his history report to his teacher. And losing an opportunity to right a sin from the past. In earlier novels by Erskine, I've criticized her almost too perfect endings. In Seeing Red, yes, there are some wonderful changes. We expect this both in novels and in life. But reality also remains wholly present. Last, Seeing Red is about history and bringing about change. Red thinks history is stupid. Why care about something that's in the past and unchangeable? But everyone has the ability to make a difference, if only they would try. And history isn't just something to read about. We can make history daily with our actions. Interviews with Erskine often bring out her strong belief that change is something that young people can invoke. Seeing Red is a remarkable example of how hard it can be, but also how important it is, to make a difference. I can't stress enough how realistic yet hopeful this book is. There is so much depth to Seeing Red. It also has the positive of being told from the viewpoint of a male protagonist, still a rare find and feat in literature for young people. Read it today. And expect to hear news of awards in the upcoming months. -- review submitted by Allison H.-F. - a customer of the Bennett Martin Public Library
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