I read this book. I did. I wanted to sample these "Kindle Enriched" editions that will play on Kindle for iPad, and I have been on kind of a girly YA kick lately.
Red Riding Hood, of course, is the novelization of the movie that very fine production designer (Tank Girl, Laurel Canyon) and disappointingly pedestrian director (Twilight) Catherine Hardwicke has just made. Catherine Hardwicke tapped a young friend to write it, and then tacked in the content that you'd ordinarily find on the film's website and later on the DVD: production stills, storyboard sketches, costume designs, video interviews with staff.
The only way to get Red Riding Hood (Enriched) is to buy it from Amazon, which I did. Thank me later. Seriously, I'm saving you money here. And self-respect.
Before we get to the book review, I would like to discuss this Amazonian exclusivity. I am a little bit in bed with Amazon, I have to admit - if you click a title on Pink Me, you will go to Amazon, and if you then buy something from Amazon, I get a (miniscule) percentage. So, in a very tiny way, I could be considered to be riding Amazon's long and prodigious... appendage.
But that doesn't mean I have to like all their policies, and this one I find particularly unlikable.
My stance is: if it's a book, you ought to be able to get it from the public library for free. Period. And you can argue all you want about content owners vs. content consumers - libraries just don't really fit comfortably into any discussion of IP or copyright. The free lending library is an oddity, an increasingly inexplicable phenomenon in an increasingly commodified industry, but it exists, and it's not going anywhere, and it has to be taken into account every time.
So. We have established. Libraries exist. You can get books for free from a library. Now we have to decide - should you be able to get all books for free from a library? And the answer there is 'yes'.
Because the weirdness that is the free lending library still exists for the same reason we still have free public schools: in this country, as in many others, we believe that there should be no economic barrier to achievement, and one avenue to success is through knowledge. Books that are only available to those who have the means to purchase them confer unfair advantage upon an already-advantaged class of people.
You might then point out that in this space I have reviewed and praised various iPad apps, which are not available for free from the public library. And I'm going to defend that by saying that they're software, not books. They contain non-exclusive content, content that is also available in books that are available from the library.
You can check out The Three Little Pigs in book form by Steve Kellogg and you are honestly not missing out on any life advantages by not getting to make the flames flicker under the pot the wolf gets boiled in. The Solar System, reviewed two weeks ago on Pink Me, is another story. It is an actual fact that a home with The Solar System under its roof is a home with improved access to information about our planet's neighborhood. I will be interested to see how Apple decides to manage access to iPad apps if libraries start lending out iPads.
But Amazon has already crossed this bridge. Amazon decided, quite early, that if you own a Kindle, all its contents will come from Amazon. Some items that are out of copyright will be available for free (creating, by the way, an interesting mini-canon - an unusual number of people have recently read The Count of Monte Cristo, Treasure Island, and the works of Jane Austen), but the rest, you will buy.
Most of the time, this is not that much of a big. Most of Amazon's Kindle content is also available for other devices, and all of those other devices (Nook, Sony Reader, iPad) accept library ebook downloads. But in the case of Red Riding Hood (Enriched), this is Amazon exclusive content: you get it from them or you do not get it.
And if it didn't suck so badly, I might object to that.
I'm not kidding here. I wrote something exactly like this when I was in junior high school, with a mysterious grandmother and two suitors and a gorgeous girl who knew she was different but didn't realize that she was special or magic or whatever. She might have even had a rockin' giant hooded cape. I gave up that story because the dialogue was awful: when I tried forest-y peasant-y talk it came out stilted and precious, and when I switched it to more natural speech, it grated against the setting.
In this book, the author has gone the fully anachronistic route. "Okay" and "goddamn" appear in the choppy, often incomplete declarations that pass for dialogue.
Sentence by sentence, the writing is awkward and trite, hammering both action and emotion home with redundancies and over-clarifications. Teen readers deserve more respect than that.
Similies are often awkward or just plain weird: "A growl sounded roughly from within him... vocal cords gesticulating like plucked rubber bands." Gesticulating? Descriptions tie to the movie a little too obviously in places: "The hood of her long red cloak framed her pale face, her pink cheeks." "Valerie thought their three friends looked like a trio of mythical goddesses."
Oh look, the girls in the movie kind of look like teenage goddesses! Unusual for one village of woodcutters to produce this many extremely pretty girls of the same age yet widely divergent physical types, don't you think? And while we allow that in movies because pretty girls are nice to look at and sell tickets, it is not necessary in a book unless it is part of the plot. Which it isn't (although the boobs of one are in fact a plot element. Still, she could be homely with big boobs).
Scene by scene, the book plods so predictably that you can practically pick a page number in order to find the scene you're looking for. One of the features of the ebook format is a slider bar that shows percent as well as page number. If you wanted to skip ahead to the point where Amanda Seyfried finds out her mother's secret (she's got one, it's obvious from the moment we meet her), you might slide your finger to, oh, 45% of the way through. That's where I'd expect a Seemingly Minor Revelation That Nevertheless Profoundly Disturbs the Main Character's Worldview to occur, and that's where it is.
In addition, the final chapter is not included with the book that you buy from Amazon. I'm not kidding. Little Red has not one but two or possibly even three abrupt changes of heart in the last few pages of the Kindle edition, and then the reader is advised to go online (or see the movie, of course), to find out who the wolf is, and which suitor she chooses, and if anyone dies.
I might have been interested in seeing this movie: I do love me a cape, and I thought the sets looked pretty cool. But I cannot suffer through this incoherent dialogue and thudding plot twice.
Other Kindle Enhanced titles for young people include I Am Number Four, enhanced with, again, extras that you might expect on the DVD, and Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex, enhanced with a stand-up performance by Eoin Colfer. More Eoin Colfer = better, but young readers can find Eoin Colfer stand-up online without having to pay for the Amazon Enhanced Artemis Fowl thingie.
I like the enhanced version of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song book: it seems like a smart and obvious use of the technology. Other Kindle Enhanced editions include guitar instruction books, travel guides, and cookbooks, which also seem to make sense for the medium.
In general, however, Amazon only offers a few hundred of these Enhanced titles, and it doesn't seem like they're making production of them a big priority. They don't even work on the Kindle - you need Kindle for iPad/iPod/iPhone. Interesting as a curiosity, and as something to compare iPad apps to, but no more than that.