Honor student Emma knows more about galvanic cell diagrams than guns. College is the only way out of her gang-ridden hometown, but her parents can’t afford it.
When her unemployed dad lands a job as a census taker, things start looking up. But he’s sent deep into East Malo Verde, where gang members rule the streets and fear anyone with a badge who knocks on doors. One night, a gang member mistakes him for a cop and beats him savagely, leaving him for dead.
Her best friends, her chem lab partner, her mom, and the detective assigned to the case all try to convince her to focus on school. But school won’t prepare her for a world that ignores a crime against a good man. Emma must decide what’s more important: doing what’s expected, or doing what she feels is right . . . even if it leads her down a dark and dangerous path of revenge.
The Red Road is about a girl in turmoil, coming of age as she discovers the depths – and the limits – of friendship, first love, and the bond between parents and their children.
This literary novel is a gripping, beautifully and meticulously well-written story of the way we cope with internal and external issues in our world. It tells the tale of what happens when you let obsession unravel the thread of oneself and family.
This story is told in Emma, a teenage girl’s perspective. The world around Emma becomes a harder, dangerous place even though it had been that way before. But now her family is involved and she can’t ignore the cruelty and injustice around her. We experience Emma’s unraveling choices and the reasoning behind each of them as she changes throughout this novel, trying to cope with the pain caused to her dad. Watching her change in this book was gripping and painful. I wanted someone to pull her back from the edge.
There is a backdrop of literary classics referenced in this story -high school reading assignments- and it’s clever and fitting the way Emma relates these stories to her own life. She is a smart girl, but she sees books, her friends, and gangs in one dangerous light. She focuses on the pieces of it she believes she can’t change, but is constantly being told she can. So when she does decide to try to change things, everything unravels even more.
I think this novel did an amazing job of capturing the teenage voice and angst – the complicated relationships with family, with friends (especially girl friends) and with crushes.
The family dynamics in this book were amazing. Each character had beautiful quirks and flaws. And it was brilliant the way food was used to convey the current state of relationships in the family. If Emma and her mother were fighting, Emma’s lunch the next day would be all her least favorite foods. They never ate before her father got home. Punishment was not eating at the table with the family. Every family has different ways of coping with issues, and this family’s was the control of food.
Sometimes I wanted to scream while reading. I give major kudos to Wiltz for that because she made me feel SO much while reading this novel. I was angry at the evilness, frustrated with Emma and the path she was heading down, and terrified where Wiltz was going to take this. Would this story have a happy ending? Could it get worse? How will Emma come out of all this? Can’t someone stop her for goodness sakes?! It was intense. And when I finished . . . well my heart sort of felt like someone gripped it in their fist and dug their nails in.
Jenni Wiltz is a talented author. There is not a thing I would change about this novel. You can tell that Wiltz went through every single sentence in this novel to make it as strong as possible. Everything was in place. Every detail was important. There were parts of the novel that I wanted to look away because it was so well written it made me queasy.
Below is one of my favorite paragraphs in the book (p.159-160 paperback) because it not only tells you so much about the character Emma, but it also shows the level of talent and complexity in Wiltz’s writing:
When the water was as hot as it could get, she tilted her face and let the water hit her cheeks and eyelids. The word made her cringe. The water wasn’t hitting her at all. It didn’t inflict any pain. It didn’t break any bones or blood vessels or even leave a mark. She promised herself that when she wrote a story, she’d never use the word “hit” to describe one gentle thing falling against another.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. To read more of my reviews or submit your book for review, click here.
JENNI WILTZ is an award-winning writer who works in multiple genres, including historical fiction, thriller, mystery, and romantic suspense. Her short stories have appeared in The Portland Review, the Sacramento News & Review, and Gargoyle. In 2011, she won the RWA Kiss of Death Chapter’s prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Category Romantic Suspense, unpublished division. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from California State University, Sacramento, where she won three Bazzanella Literary Awards in fiction and critical analysis. When she’s not writing, she enjoys serving burned baked goods to a tolerant husband, mixing overpowering cocktails, blogging, and doing genealogical research. She lives in Pilot Hill, California. Find her online at http://jenniwiltz.com.