Red Riding Hood & How Its Publisher Shot Itself in the Foot

Sarah Blakley-Cartwright & David Leslie Johnson (introduction by Catherine Hardwicke)
Red Riding Hood
Hachette Little, Brown (UK: 24th February 2011; US: 16th March 2011; UK: March 2011)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Generally I research books before reading them, to lessen the chance of having a dud, or something just not suited to me. But the Australian publisher sent me a free copy of Red Riding Hood, and the summary sounded okay, so I kept it.

Daggorhorn is a village in a fictional world or unspecified historical period. Houses are on stilts, so the Wolf can’t get in – the Wolf who comes to Daggorhorn during the full moon to feed. The villagers take turns offering up a sacrifice, and now Valerie’s family must provide. When she learns the life of her beloved goat is on the line, the seven-year-old sneaks out to rescue the animal.

In my teen tears I read crime fiction, so humans of any age dying in any book don’t move me. I eat meat. But if a character loses a toy or their pet dies, I’m shattered.

The Wolf has a choice to kill either the girl or the goat. You can guess who dies. It’s upsetting, and I know that’s the intended reaction, so that angers me. I don’t like being manipulated.

This is all in the first chapter. Chapter Two begins when Valerie is seventeen, and I read through to the end of Chapter Five. The novel thus far contains three of my biggest pet peeves, so I skipped to the last chapter (Chapter Twenty-Nine), and skim-read it. Though it doesn’t specify “This person is the Wolf”, the answer is implied.

There’s a page at the back, just before the acknowledgements and biographies:

Is this truly the end of Valerie’s story? Visit [links redacted] to find out.

The URLs (one Australian, one UK) are listed, but my Internet browser came up with “Problem loading page” for both. Not that I was even sure I wanted to read a sequel, just know if there is one. I turned to Wikipedia for spoilers – including that whom I figured was the Wolf…actually isn’t. Admittedly I’d skim-read Chapter Twenty-Nine, so it’s fair enough I didn’t come to the right conclusion. Okay, so learning I was wrong deflated my ego, even though I’m the first to admit my idiocy. I’m used to books behaving as if I’m stupid (which I am), so when one treats me as if I should be smart enough to figure it out…

I know this novel is based on the screenplay/film, and director Catherine Hardwicke’s introduction led me to believe the book contains extra details. But Amazon comments and ratings of the novel make it very clear that the film has something the tome doesn’t: an ending. In the US, and probably elsewhere, the book was released (January 25th) before the film, and a “bonus chapter” (a.k.a. Chapter Thirty) is excluded so readers have to see the film to get closure (though Wikipedia works just fine). A “bonus chapter” – the actual ending – is on the US website, now that the film is in cinemas.

There are so many things wrong with this publicity ploy, namely that the novel can’t stand alone now, and it’s all about the franchise, merchandising, growing the brand, or whatever. This is rather silly considering the film’s reviews aren’t too good, and a sequel hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Since I’d already pondered quitting the novel, learning of this ploy made my decision. I disapprove of cliff-hanger endings anyway, but I tolerate them if a sequel is coming. Not so with this book. Warner Bros. tried to be clever, but have instead pissed off many readers, and discouraged potential ones.

It’s a shame, really. The back-story and setting are enjoyable, and the tale itself is trashy-fun. But this novel will be remembered for the wrong reasons, and not just because of the two-dimensional characters, purple prose and head-hopping. Is bad publicity really better than no publicity? If so, then maybe Red Riding Hood isn’t a publicity-fail after all.

But it is.

P.S. I asked Hachette Australia if the edition I have of the book is complete. The response: Red Riding Hood is a complete book but bonus content will be made available on the Hachette website on March 25th. That’s tomorrow. We’ll see.

9 responses to “Red Riding Hood & How Its Publisher Shot Itself in the Foot

  1. I purchased this novel right when it released in the US and read it a couple days later. When I found out that (a) I had to wait almost two months to read the last chapter and (b) that my copy of the book was unfinished… Well let’s just say that I wasn’t happy about that. If the book had just ended where it did, I wouldn’t have had that big of an issue. But once I found out that the bonus material also contained the last chapter, it definitely rubbed me the wrong way.

  2. A book that deliberately cuts itself off so you have to go see the film?!?!?! I am aghast at this idea. It’s a terrible idea!

  3. I had heard about this. I, personally had not picked up the book, but as a reader, if I had gotten to the end and found out that it was not finished, I would have been furious.

  4. This is lame on so many levels. I might have been tempted before to buy the book, but not knowing that it’s not complete. I hope other publishers don’t try this – they need to treat their potential customer like we’re halfway intelligent. Geez.

  5. Oh man, I got this book about a month ago and still haven’t read it (due to already having too many books on the TBR pile) but now I really don’t want to read it. I’ve recently seen the film, but it’s not as if that will make the issue go away.
    It just feels like some cheap marketing ploy, and I detest it.

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