Red by Libby Gleeson

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Red by Libby Gleeson

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Middle grade thriller about a girl with amnesia who finds herself in the rubble of Sydney during the aftermath of a devastating cyclone. Who is she? And what is her secret? Accessible, well thought out and uttterly absorbing.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: February 2014
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1444917307

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Mud. In her mouth, her nose and her eyes. Mud in her hair and caked on her neck and her arms. Mud filling her shoes and seeping through her clothes. She lay sprawled on her side, a garbled, barely distinct sound coming from her: jaymartinjaymartin.

Who is jaymartin? And who is this girl? Red doesn't know who she is or what has happened to her. She doesn't know what has caused the devastation all around her. Rescued from the mud by Peri, Red discovers that she's in Sydney in the aftermath of a terrible hurricane. Chaos is all around as the emergency response struggles to get to grips with the dead, injured and displaced. Through the noticeboard at the rescue centre, Red and Peri discover that she has a name. And a father. And a frightening secret.

Together with Peri and her old schoolfriend Jazz, Red embarks on a risky journey from Sydney to Melbourne. Will she make it? Will she find out who is jaymartin? And most of all, will she find her missing father?

I thought Red was a great thriller for middle graders - late primary, early secondary age. And interesting, too, because it is constantly asking its readers what they would do in the given situations. Would they trust an adult in authority? Would they trust a friendly stranger? Would they follow a parent's wishes even if it was dangerous to do so? Peri, the runaway boy, represents distrust of authority and the view that the end justifies the means, even if you do have to lie and steal. Jazz, Red's old schoolfriend, represents going by the rules and allowing sensible adults to make the decisions. Red herself, with no memory to help her, falls somewhere between the two stools. I think you could have some lively classrom discussions with all this.

Gleeson is a much-loved Australian author but is perhaps less well known in the UK. She has a lovely style - clear and precise, and very accessible, but also with some lovely sensuous descriptive passages. The opening chapter, in which Red wakes up to find herself alone and in the middle of a genuine disaster zone, is very hardhitting. You can really feel her fear, confusion and alienation. It felt like the beginning of a dystopian YA novel and it was quite a shock to realise that it was all going to be set in the here and now. I loved that Red's journey was her own to make. She can't remember anything at first and, even when the memories start to return, she still doesn't really know whether she's in real danger or not. She has to proceed by her own intelligence and wit - with the help and advice of two peers and no adults. I really think this will resonate with readers.

Red is a well thought out, satisfying thriller with relatable characters and an original plot line. What more could you want?

Crash by J A Hendersonis another super middle grade story featuring a character with amnesia.

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Buy Red by Libby Gleeson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Red by Libby Gleeson at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Red by Libby Gleeson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Red by Libby Gleeson at


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