I knew I wanted to read Red Handed the moment I glimpsed the cover. It’s so striking. I loved the girl’s black nail polish, loved the way her fingers covered most of her face, but gave us a glimpse of her eyes- expressive eyes that look accusing, that know too much, and I loved that the cover was red since the tag line was: There’s blood on her hands… but it isn’t human.
Now, I know this book is not technically fantasy, but it’s my second favorite genre, sci-fi! It takes place in our future, a society where aliens freely live among us and are regulated by a group called A.I.R. (Alien Investigation and Retrieval).
The story is set in New Chicago where we meet teen and recovering addict, Phoenix Germaine. Like many other teens in her town, she’s made Onadyn her drug of choice. In aliens, it helps them acclimate to their new Earth surroundings, but on humans, it provides a wicked high.
Just when Phoenix has kicked the habit and started to rebuild her relationship with her mother, she gets stuck at a party where everyone is high on the stuff and helpless to ward off a sudden alien attack – except for a handsome butt kicking stranger. And Phoenix herself- she was sober enough to fight back. But when it’s all said and done she awakens at home, seemingly coming off of an Onadyn high. And her mother has had enough. She’s shipped off to ‘reform school’ which is really just A.I.R. training camp.
I loved the edgy honesty in this book. It felt very modern, very today, and I could see teens really relating to this character who’s fighting her personal demons and genuinely trying to make a change. I never doubted Phoenix’s motives. I could tell she really wanted to make her mother proud and the battle and mistrust was naked and so real. It was moving to watch Phoenix take control of her life and better herself.
The book does deal with some violence and sexuality and drugs, so I would probably recommend it to older teens, but it definitely has crossover adult appeal.The side characters, especially the instructors at the school, all have their own stories in Showalter’s adult Alien Huntress novels- so if you really love the New Chicago world and want more, check them out. (WARNING: those are certainly adult novels which include profanity, sex, and violence.) I happen to prefer the teen world much better than the adult, and I read both, so I can say that freely.
Overall, I give the book an A-.