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LIES, KNIVES, AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES by Ron Koertge

LIES, KNIVES, AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES

By Ron Koertge (Author) , Andrea Dezsö (Illustrator)

Age Range: 14 - 18

Pub Date: July 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4406-2
Publisher: Candlewick

Short, brisk vignettes flip traditional fairy tales onto their backs.

Twenty-three rewritings disclose dark secrets. Although each ostensibly has its own narrator, a lascivious narrative tone runs throughout. Dezsö matches that tone with black cut-out silhouettes of death and dismemberment, breasts unobscured. Incest recurs, as does kinky sexuality. Red Riding Hood, one example of the latter, reveals, “I was totally looking / forward to that part. With the wolf and all. I’m into danger, / okay?” Kink is rarely acknowledged in teen literature; it’s unfortunate that these tales are too abrupt to address the topic meaningfully. The line-breaks of Koertge’s free verse seem gratuitous. Sexual imagery includes both children (Hansel and Gretel “eat and eat, filling up the moist recesses / of their little bodies”) and projected rape-fantasy (the Beast claims that Beauty “almost wanted / me to break her neck and open her / up like a purse”). Descriptions are incomprehensibly flip (“Oh, her skin is white as Wonder bread, / her little breasts like cupcakes!”) or harsh (“a beautiful girl…not the usual chicken head ho”). The voice dances from incongruous humor (“it’s weird inside a wolf, / all hot and moist but no worse than flying coach to Newark”) to modernity forced into fairy-tale diction (“She’d slept over at their hovels”).

Will catch some eyes, but this feels like edginess for edginess’s sake, no deeper. (Fractured fairy tales. 14 & up)