Low Red Moon — not to be confused with the Caitlin R. Kiernan novel by the same name — is Ivy Devlin’s entry into the field of YA paranormal romance. The protagonist is Avery Hood, a teenage girl whose parents have just been murdered. Avery remembers only brief flashes from that fateful night. Now, she’s trying to deal with her grief, adjust to her new life with her grandmother, and piece together her memories to solve the mystery. Then, she learns that her new boyfriend, Ben, has a secret — and that he may have been involved in the killings.
First, the good: The mystery plot is suspenseful and moving. In the climactic scene, when all is revealed, Devlin ties her story in with the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” Hints of the fairy tale had been present in the novel from the beginning (wolves, a grandmother, the surname Hood). It’s at the finale, though, that the fairy tale and Devlin’s clever twist on it really shine through. Also compelling is Avery’s relationship with her grandmother, Renee. The two had become near-strangers after a fight between Renee and Avery’s father, and now they forge a tenuous bond in their mutual grief.
What doesn’t work so well: First, the disjointed, breathless writing style. It works in the first scene, when Avery recounts the few moments she remembers of the night of the murders. It’s less effective when Devlin continues to use that style throughout the story. One quirk in particular is used often enough to become distracting; namely, starting a sentence, cutting it off with a dash or ellipsis, and then continuing it in a new paragraph:
I stopped in the hall. After what I’d seen, after everything, I was —
I was hurt.
I would eat some of Mom’s awful trail mix from the pantry at the kitchen table, and then I would…
I would do what I knew was right.
The romance is also lackluster; there simply isn’t much development of it. We’re told that Avery and Ben are physically attracted and that there is a metaphysical connection between them too, and then they make out a lot. It’s presented as an epic love. This is common in young adult romance currently, and it seldom works for me. If I’m to believe two characters have a true, strong love, I want to see them talking; I want to see them doing things together other than making out. The trouble is, there’s precious little for Avery and Ben to do or to talk about. Neither character is strongly defined beyond their grief (Ben has lost a family as well) and their attraction to each other. The publisher’s blurb mentions Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, but in that novel, we got to see Grace and Sam watch bad movies and cook together. There was a sense that they’d like each other just as much in a world without magic or werewolves.
The blurb also calls Low Red Moon “a book to be devoured in one sitting,” and they’re not kidding. This is an extremely short novel that only takes a few hours to read. I recommend waiting for the paperback if you are interested in reading Low Red Moon.