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Rose Sees Red

Review

Rose Sees Red

ROSE SEES RED is a cheerful novel about friendship between a group of teenagers, citizens of two bickering nations during the Cold War. Here, an American girl who is stuck in her "black stage" finds friendship with a Russian teenager, a bond that embodies understanding, openness and a willingness to appreciate people's differences. In being the first to value a foreigner, others follow in Rose's footsteps. These associations become a symbol of peace at a time when politics have prevented any policy of trust.

Rose's gloominess begins at the close of her eighth grade year when she discovers what it means to have a false friend. Since they were little, Rose and Daisy had been joined at the hip, but Rose never realized how hard it would be to maintain a relationship that allows only one center. Daisy had insisted on being the recipient of everyone's attention, the one who set the style --- and limits --- for  the group. She decided what they wore, where they went, and who they hung out with. And while Rose was in her shadow, she felt included, at least for a while. But like a viper, Daisy is a creature who is only trustworthy until you let your guard down or turn your back. In that instant, she'll show you who she really is, and after that, you'll never believe her again.

Through her early years, Rose had always gone along with Daisy's petty demands, until the day she insisted that Rose quit ballet. Dancing is in Rose's blood. She has the spirit of a dancer and what professionals would call an innate muscle memory. She is insecure about performing, but the allure of dancing is strong and she secretly aspires to go to a prestigious arts school. One day, she becomes brave enough to take the first step and walks into the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. She fails in the audition but finally does dance well, leading to a letter of acceptance. This is an exclusive opportunity that could lead to a future in professional ballet. Rose is elated but knows it will cause a major rift between her and Daisy, and sure enough, once she tells her, Rose is out of the circle. No apologies are accepted, and not only does Daisy brush her off, she personally assures that no one at Bronx Science will speak to her again. 

Two years later, Rose is in the 10th grade and is still struggling as a performer. There are times when she feels her own power but for some reason chickens out. This is particularly true when others are watching. She hasn't merged into any clique and hasn't been able to find herself. She simply has never recovered her confidence. There are a few of her peers in whom she might be interested if she only dared speak to them. Two are sisters (triplets), and there is also a beautiful Russian dancer who lives nearby in the Bronx. Rose can sense that this girl is a dancer of a different caliber, but because they share an interest, Yrena is immediately interesting. She lives in a compound and can't leave without being tailed by the KGB or CIA. She is under guard and knows nothing about what's like to grow up free in America. But one day, the Russian girl becomes curious enough to want to know about Rose's life, entering it when she boldly crawls through Rose's window. In talking, Yrena shows both grace and warmth, and there is something about her that allows Rose to let her in.

ROSE SEES RED is set in New York City in the year 1982, with almost a decade remaining until the end of the Cold War. Politics are addressed very sparingly, and the political setting is more of a metaphor for difficulties in navigating relationships --- on many scales. The book takes readers through highly recognizable landmarks in New York and, with a cheerful spirit, emphasizes the importance of peace and open friendship. This is a moving story that is often funny and tends toward the lighter side rather than being too serious. It's a quick read that young booklovers should enjoy.

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Reviewed by Melanie Smith on October 18, 2011

Rose Sees Red
by Cecil Castellucci

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545060796
  • ISBN-13: 9780545060790