Author: Cecil Castelluci
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2010
Rose is a dancer at the school of Performing Arts and like most teenage girls she's struggling to find her way. She's never been very good at making friends mostly because she's been under the control of her best friend Daisy for years. But when Rose offends Daisy in the worst possible way--by having her own opinion and making a decision without her--Rose is left alone and friendless. She doesn't know how friendships work because she never really had one with Daisy. She was Daisy's puppet, not really her friend. All of that changes one fateful day when Rose smiles at the neighbor she has seen for years but never talked to. That one smile snowballs into a tentative friendship, solidified during the course of one crazy night in NYC. Unfortunately this is NYC in 1982 during the height of the Cold War and Rose's neighbor is the daughter of a Russian diplomat.
Castellucci's characterization of Rose is spot-on. Rose is a realistic floundering girl. The description of Rose's emptiness and blackness because she doesn't have a true friend and feels like she doesn't belong is heartbreaking and genuine as is the shy hopeful joy she feels when the hole within her chest begins to heal and close with each new connection she makes. It's not just Yrena (the neighbor), but also a few school friends, who see Rose as she can be and help her out of the dark.
I managed to read this in one sitting, during a particularly pleasant nap/quiet time. I couldn't stop reading. Seeing Rose, well, blossom (no pun intended) was beautiful and poignant. I've read many books about teenage girls looking for acceptance and friendship, but Castelluci has really nailed the description of just how dark and depressing it can feel and how all it takes is for someone else to make a little extra effort to completely change things. I also love the title--Rose is stuck in her black friendless world and then sees the color red, a color not only associated with roses but also with communism and Russia. This is definitely a girl book, I don't see many boys (unless they are really thoughtful sensitive types) picking it up, but I heartily recommend it.
(not related--this is my first review typed up on my new iPad!)
I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.