I weren't really sure what to think of this book when I were finished with it. When I started, the *were*s were a little jarring. I decided that this was just part of the dialect and voice (though I didn't have a problem with Scarlet's *fair*s and *right*s, etc.) so I kept pushing. It took a few pages (maybe 70) before I wasn't pausing to jump over every *were* like it was a hurdle. I'm not saying that it was an ineffective authorial decision, it was just something to get used to.
The voice and character of Scarlet is truly impressive. It's rare to find a book that actually digs deep into a female character and makes her more than just a whining female or a feisty twit with a gender inferiority complex. Scarlet was an actual person for me--a character whom I cared about and loved and appreciated by the end of the story. That is what every book should strive for, whether the protagonist is male or female. That was what was so rewarding about this book. And it's not just Scarlet who is 3D--the whole band is. I found John to be irritating, but I had to acknowledge that this was more due to my personal taste than any lack of depth. Although he can come off as an overprotective, womanizing oaf, he has vulnerabilities and imperfections that surprised me. Much is great, even though he gets very little page time; although he seems young an inexperienced, I couldn't help admiring his courage in the face of his disability. He works with what he has, and being perhaps the most level-headed of the group, he was my favorite. Robin was slightly harder to love… he came off as kind of a cold, Byronic hero.
There is this great gushing scene at the end of the book that smacks of Twilight, and it's true that Scarlet does have her Bella Swan moments, developed as she is (i.e., My soul is black as tar; Robin could never love me sort of thing). Sometimes Scarlet's lack of self-esteem was so maddening I wanted to smack her upside the head. "You can throw knives and beat people up and jack stuff up," I wanted to tell her. "More than that, I like you, and others like you. You have really interesting, original thoughts, and I like the way you view the world. BUT YOU CAN BE SO DUMB WHEN IT COMES TO BOYS."
While I would give this book 5/5 for Scarlet's character alone, a book is more than character and voice: it's plot development too. That's where this book flags a little. The pace is rather slow for a short work, and then everything goes spiraling wildly out in the last 50 pages. Tears fall like waterfalls, confessions are wrenched out, people die (not saying who), and by the time it was all over, I just had knitted brows and the question "What did I just read, and was it all part of the same book?"
I'll look forward to more from A.C. Gaughen, although I might not be chomping at the bit to read a sequel to Scarlet.