“I know what it’s like when you can’t get no one to listen to you. When what you say don’t matter. I half think every girl knows what it’s like to be silenced.”
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen was recommended to me ages ago when I was looking for some good YA, and I definitely think this qualifies. It’s a take on the Robin Hood mythos in which Robin Hood isn’t the main character. Instead, it’s our Maid Marian, in a form unlike any I’ve ever seen her in. She’s a thief on the run from her old life and a dangerous man. She’s a good shot with daggers and she doesn’t take to being bossed around by anyone – which is, in part, why she’s in disguise as a boy named Will Scarlet.
For one thing, Scar’s past won’t be looking for her as a boy. But she also knows that girls aren’t taken seriously. A boy thief is less likely to be messed with on the forest roads than a girl traveling alone. People will listen to a boy. They’ll just tell a girl to go home. This theme is pretty central in the book, as is Scar’s unwillingness to accept it.
This is probably one of the best Robin Hood retellings I’ve encountered. Those classic characters that we know so well – Robin, Friar Tuck, Little John, Maid Marian – are put into new roles as characters that are both familiar and yet entirely themselves. Plus, it’s chock full of girl power messages, and you know I love that.
I do have some issues with it, however. Robin acts like he has a right to know all of Scar’s secrets just because he’s told her some of his. He becomes furious with her whenever he learns that she’s kept something from him. I would understand annoyance or frustration, but he seems to think that he has a right to all of her memories and secrets. I’m not okay with that. Just like no one has a right to your body, no one has a right to your mind, either. I wish Scar had fought back a little more when he was angry at her for not telling him everything, instead of just (mostly) thinking that he was right.
Also, the Sheriff of Nottingham character was pretty weak, to me. An original villain was brought in, and the Sheriff was lost. He did some pretty evil stuff, but I never really got a sense of him as a character. Maybe I’m spoiled because I’ve been reading A Song of Ice and Fire and those characters have ALL OF THE DEPTH, ALL OF IT, but I just wanted more out of both him and the original villain. There wasn’t much to them except, well, evil.
Overall, I’m gonna say this is a good book that’s well worth reading, especially if you a) like Robin Hood and/or b) are craving some feminist YA.