I read Rose Sees Red because the only Cecil Castellucci books I’d read before were her comics for the Minx imprint a few years ago, and supposedly she’s one of the queens of YA. This was okay, but not as good as Plain Janes (the first one at least).
Rose Sees Red is set in the 1980s, which she doesn’t actually tell the reader until maybe halfway through the story. You can tell beforehand that something is off about the setting though because of the ominous nature of having Russians live next door, and KGB jokes and comments about David Bowie and leg-warmers. But honestly, all of that could fit into a story about today, except when the kids go to a No Nukes rally. There are signposts that tell you this is either the past or an alternate reality (the obvious signifier of the World Trade Center standing shows up, as it must in any story about pre-9/11 New York). I wonder if it was set up to be a puzzle to make the reader feel clever for figuring out it’s in the ’80s, or if she thought it was completely obvious and therefore didn’t require any indication.
Anyway, the story is about a girl who used to have friends but then chose to dance so she now has no friends except for the Russian girl from next door who appears in her room one night and they go to a party and experience the wonders of art on the streets of New York.
There’s a lot less to this book than the first one. There’s an attempt to get a grant and everyone is negotiating romantic problems and generally it didn’t grab me the way the intersection of art and terrorism in the first book did. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t make me want to shove it into people’s hands the way the first did.
In The Plain Janes, Jane has moved from Metro City to the suburbs after a terrorist attack. Her parents think life there will be safer. Jane misses the life of the city and now she has to start up at a new school. The book is about her trying to start up a guerrilla art group with a bunch of other girls named Jane, despite the advances of the popular girl to get her to stop being a loser. There’s also a subplot about a boy in a coma back in the city whose name she doesn’t even know.
I really liked this book, even though the hysterically overprotective mother was probably a bit over the top (or maybe that’s just my aversion to such people showing through). The idea of art being important, especially in the boring places where people end up living is a great story.
This was another book from the Minx imprint from DC Comics that folded. It had a lot of good YA female friendly stuff, but it didn’t really sell so I think they just got folded back into Vertigo. Kind of sad, really.