Red at Night
McGarry apparently was asked to write this novella to highlight a charity called the "Goodie Two Shoes Foundation", which provides underprivileged kids with proper sized shoes of their own choosing. It's truly an admirable endeavor, but this reader had the lingering sense that the charity part came off a little heavy-handed when emphasized in the story itself. But then again, I'm never much a fan of product placement.
The story alternates back and forth by chapters between the hero and heroine's first-person POV. Stella is a quirky, cemetery-dwelling purple-haired girl from the 'wrong side of the tracks'--worn out on the risk of hoping for anything better out of life. And Jonah is a passive, over-privileged follower of his popular pseudo-friends, who's coping with a massive identity shift after the perspective-altering trauma of witnessing a fatal car accident. They find unlikely companionship while spending excessive amounts of time at a local cemetery, and both are challenged to grow into whoever they -decide- to become. The message found in their story is pointed and pragmatic--hopeful and even a little thought-provoking. The inherent value of it, particularly for teenagers, is pretty blatant.
While this reader was genuinely able to like both characters, the length of the story felt a bit constraining to depth of character development--and the ultimate resolution, though satisfying, begged many unanswered questions. Nearly all of the side characters felt one-dimensional, which was particularly disappointing in the primary antagonist (and Jonah's "best friend") Cooper. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why Jonah clung to any kind of association with a mildly sociopathic bully. I kept hoping for some kind of justification--some flashback to something poignant that would help me comprehend the loyalty there. But alas, things remained decisively vague. Much like Stella, I found myself wanting MORE.
As with so many novellas, I really just longed to see it fleshed out into a full-blown novel. I did like the taste I got for McGarry's next book, and still have every intention of picking up her others eventually.