Red Rising by Pierce Brown is one of the hottest novels to come out in the Young Adult space recently. The rights for a film have been made, and Brown himself is getting a ton of glowing press from the mainstream media.
Knowing this, I dove into Red Rising, the first book in the Red Rising trilogy, and at first, I was unimpressed. It follows all the tropes of a typical dystopian YA novel – a strictly hierarchical society (which, once you think about a little more deeply, doesn’t make any sense), a hero from the absolute bottom rung of said society, how the elite are keeping everyone else under their thumbs through cruel and capricious means, how the hero initially doesn’t want to fight the system but a family member gets killed, blah blah blah.
Basically the same stuff that drives The Hunger Games. Or Divergent. Or the Maze Runner. Or a billion other YA novels. This is the book that’s getting such wide acclaim?
Then a funny thing happened.
Then I started to care about Darrow. Then I started to get interested in the book. Then I started to enjoy it. A lot.
Not coincidentally, this shift in my thinking started right around when Brown dispensed with the usual YA dystopian cliches and focused instead on telling his own story, the story of Darrow, a Red who finds himself in the middle of Gold society, and realizing that things aren’t quite as simple as they seem.
The first 100 pages are uninspired, mostly worldbuilding and setup, but then Brown dug his claws into me, and soon I realized I couldn’t tear myself away. And that was when I realized why this series is so popular, and why it might become a movie very soon.
Unlike, say, The Fifth Season, Red Rising isn’t a literary book – it is exactly what it presents itself to be – a fun read that’s the equivalent to a Hollywood blockbuster movie. Make some popcorn, get comfortable, and enjoy the ride, because once it starts, you’ll be racing to the finish.