Shades of Scarlet


Scarlet suspects her mother gifts her the plush scarlet covered notebook as a way to spy on her. It seems as though the gift is something to sweeten her up. However when Scarlet learns that all of her mother’s complaints about her father have built up into a decision to leave, she is horrified. Furthermore, she expects Scarlet to go with her.

It’s true that her father is rather undynamic, but he works appalling hours. Possibly, Scarlet could make an effort to inspire him, from what they do together, to meals, to redecorating their former family home. Yet that might lead to complications with a new romantic interest…

However, Scarlet’s real inspiration for her mother choosing to leave Scarlet’s father is revealed to her at school, by his nephew! It appears that Jake Naylor’s Uncle Richard has been seeing Scarlet’s mother for some time. How is Scarlet supposed to take to that? Then the fact that Scarlet is supposed to meet him, be polite… There are constant omissions, betrayals- Scarlet is outraged by her mother’s behaviour!

Yet the communication between her parents remains constant, and offers Scarlet an opportunity to glimpse into their relationship aside from her. What she learns is unsettling, particularly as it relates to her mother’s future with Richard Naylor, and then about how she feels about children.

All the time, through Shades of Scarlet, her story is carried and analysed, chewed over and acted upon alongside her best friend Alice. Yet as Alice’s parents, then their other friends at school, question and comment, Scarlet begins to see her parents in a different light. What will be the impact of this big new change in her life, in their lives? Where do we move ahead in Shades of Scarlet?

Former Children’s Laureate, Anne Fine, returns to YA writing with a thoughtful, lively, mature and realistic novel. Our heroine is by turns sympathetic, headstrong, childish and vulnerable. We warm to Scarlet and her family and friends and recognise their vulnerabilities, character and setting clearly. Bookwagon recommends Shades of Scarlet highly to our older readers.

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Shades of Scarlet

Anne Fine

(David Fickling Books)

The notebook Scarlet receives from her mother is in Shades of Scarlet. Although Scarlet loves it immediately, she is suspicious. She predicts that her mother will use the notebook to spy on her, so hides it away. Yet this is a year that she cannot hide. Furthermore, it seems as though everyone is part of the changes in her life, from Alice to Jake, to Alice’s parents.
As Scarlet’s mother acts upon her protests about Scarlet’s father’s inertia, and moves them out, Scarlet is torn. It’s true that her father is passive and lacks imagination. However Scarlet’s mother seems impulsive and overly critical. Thereafter, when she learns from school that her mother is seeing somebody else, Jake’s uncle, Richard Naylor, Scarlet feels betrayed and furiously loyal to her father. However, he is benign about the situation. This further agitates Scarlet who feels she must act on his behalf to embolden him, motivate him to step forward, make changes and reveal his true independent self. Yet Scarlet doesn’t reckon upon home decorations’ adviser, Laura.
Meanwhile, as Scarlet rocks between her parents, meeting Richard Naylor, reconciling to a fledgling relationship with her father, the commentary about her situation continues with Alice. It seems Alice and then her parents, are very engaged. Then there’s Jake, who offers advice as to Richard Naylor’s interests. Finally, there’s Archie, Alice’s baby cousin, who prompts a very real, adult empathy and awareness in Scarlet as to her parents’ own relationship and then her mother’s decision.
A new book by Anne Fine, former UK Children’s Laureate is cause for celebration. Like Lisa Williamson in First Day of My Life, this is a direct, respectful YA title. Bookwagon recommends Shades of Scarlet to readers who appreciate mature, brilliantly characterised, novels.


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