The Red Road {Book Review}

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The Red Road by Jenni Wiltz

The Red Road, by Jenni Wiltz

Literary/Women’s Fiction

Published January 26,  2015

A father’s love. A family’s tragedy. A daughter’s revenge.

Honor student Emma knows more about galvanic cell diagrams than guns. College is the only way out of her gang-ridden hometown, but her parents can’t afford it.

When her unemployed dad lands a job as a census taker, things start looking up. But he’s sent deep into East Malo Verde, where gang members rule the streets and fear anyone with a badge who knocks on doors. One night, a gang member mistakes him for a cop and beats him savagely, leaving him for dead.

Her best friends, her chem lab partner, her mom, and the detective assigned to the case all try to convince her to focus on school. But school won’t prepare her for a world that ignores a crime against a good man. Emma must decide what’s more important: doing what’s expected, or doing what she feels is right . . . even if it leads her down a dark and dangerous path of revenge.

The Red Road is about a girl in turmoil, coming of age as she discovers the depths — and the limits — of friendship, first love, and the bond between parents and their children.

I have to tell you, The Red Road isn’t my usual cup of tea when it comes to books. But its description spoke to me, so I decided to curl up with this novel to see how it unfolded. After all, I love books that are rich with characters and relationships, and The Red Road seemed to fit that bill.

The story is a serious one; it deals with complicated and difficult issues and it does so thoughtfully and carefully. There are cultural issues that go far beyond being biased or close-minded; we’re talking about real-life conflicts that affect people’s very lives. That can be difficult to comprehend (and, likely, difficult to write about) but the way it was presented in The Red Road felt authentic. It wasn’t gratuitous, and it wasn’t “cheesy.” It was real.

I know that a common reaction to a tragedy is for people to say that they would avenge a loved one by doing this or that to the perpetrator of the crime. That’s normal. But, if we were actually in those shoes, what would we do? Would we seek revenge? Many people think they would, but when push comes to shove, you don’t really know unless you’re in that situation.

Emma has a lot going on in her life, like any other teenager. But when you add her father’s trauma, it changes everything (which seems like a genuine and realistic reaction). It permeates every aspect of her life and creates new challenges everywhere she turns.

I really enjoyed The Red Road. I didn’t breeze through it (the way I do with some books), which was a good thing. I took my time and really took in the story, the characters, and the dynamics. It was totally worth it. And, to top it off, this book is one that my teenaged daughter would enjoy. It’s not too mature for her, yet it’s not too young for me. It’s “just right.”

The Red Road Author Jenni WIltz

Jenni Wiltz writes fiction and creative nonfiction. She has won national writing awards for creative nonfiction and romantic suspense, including a 2011 Romance Writers of America Kiss of Death Chapter’s Daphne du Maurier Award for her novel The Cherbourg Jewels. Jenni also writes thrillers, historical fiction, and paranormal romance. You may have seen her short stories in The Portland ReviewGargoyle, and the Sacramento News & Review.

After earning degrees in English and history and a masters degree in English, she worked as a web editor, a copywriter, and a USAID grant program coordinator, which gave her the opportunity to travel to Kenya. When Jenni isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, sewing, running, and genealogical research. She lives in Pilot Hill, California and has not yet struck gold in her backyard.

You can hang out with Jenni Wiltz on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Don’t forget Goodreads!

You can find The Red Road at:


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  1. says

    Thank you so much for reading and reviewing my book! I’m so happy you enjoyed it – if that’s the right word for a pretty dark book! I’m also glad this is a book you and your daughter can both read. I’ve heard that from several reviewers now, which makes me feel like I did something worthwhile. :)

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