Ashleigh Paige

I'm a full-time college sophomore pursuing my B.A. in English with hopes of one day working as an editor. Cats, musicals, documentaries about cults/disasters/tragedies, and curse words are just a few of my favorite things. Also, check out our blog or I WILL FIND YOU.

Torch Red: Color Me Torn - Melody Carlson Also appears on The Screaming Nitpicker.Red. It's a very bold color, one that pops out at you when viewed among other colors. Red high heels, a red dress, red lipstick--red is a color often associated with being sexual. There are many other things red can be the color of: a stop sign, fruit, fire, the strawberries I'm indulging myself with as I write this. Red is also the color of blood, which I saw plenty of while reading and after finishing Torch Red.First and foremost, Zoe is a horrible person both pre- and post-conversion. She calls her friends tramps multiple times, judges a homeless person based on the clothes they were lucky enough to find somewhere (because gosh, can't they get to a Banana Republic and get something that isn't last year?), calls pretty much anyone who sleeps with anyone a tramp, and thinks it degrades a girl if she dares to engage in sexual activity because she wants to. (Wait, apparently, we girls never actually want sex and it's always those darn men pressuring us. Never mind.) I'm not sure how we're supposed to identify or like a heroine like her because I sure couldn't.The side characters were unrealistic and existed as they were only to get the preachy message (a girl should save herself for message and be Christian) of the book across. Apparently, all we teenage girls talk about in the locker room is sexy sexy sex and we shun anyone who isn't wearing a thong. Some of them have the right ideas about sex in certain ways (Casey, in saying men should be responsible for their actions), others are backwards as can be (Casey again, saying a girl should save herself for marriage because her husband has the right to her virginity and she's worth less after having sex).Every single girl in the book who had sex got the shaft. All of them. Kirsti and Thea: were mean to Zoe, lose Zoe's friendship in the end. Emily: had to get tested for an STD, later got back with the boyfriend who cheated on her multiple times and loses Zoe's friendship. Shawna: had to leave old school because she got an STD, fools around with numerous guys at her new one and eventually loses all her friends when the truth gets out. Shannon: gets kicked out after getting pregnant and has an abortion. Homeless. Great message to send: have sex and screw up your life. Despite the messages, when you have sex does not define your life.Oh oh oh! I can't believe I nearly forgot about this! At two points, Zoe is nearly date raped and everyone is trying to blame it on her, like it's her fault someone drugged her or that her boyfriend doesn't know what the word "no" means. Hm, how about blaming the guys who drugged her/wouldn't listen to "no" instead of the victim? Doesn't that sound nice? There was even a rainbow party. A rainbow party! If you have no idea what that is, put it in a search engine and see what you get back.I almost feel sorry for Torch Red. It wants so badly to be a meaningful book about sex, but it completely ignores what are key points for a book about sex now. First, what about gay people? What are they supposed to do? (Note: this is answered in Bright Purple, another book in Carlson's series, and the result is not pretty.) Second, what about birth control? No mention of birth control or someone using it is ever made in the novel. Teens are going to have sex, and trying to pretend birth control doesn't exist instead of teaching them how to properly use it harms them more than anyone else.Despite one character's repeated hammering in of the message that becoming a Christian will not suddenly make the world perfect and solve all of one's problems, this message is contradicted in the end because after Zoe has her Christian awakening or whatever, everything is perfect. She tells off Justin, confesses the truth about being a virgin, and makes a bunch of new friends because of it. The purity myth indoctrination of saving oneself for marriage is once again strong and very, very wrong. We're back to reducing women to their virginity and this is Not Okay to the highest possible degree.Even if I completely ignored the horrid messages of the book that girls who have sex are baaaaaad and wish they had saved themselves for their husbands like those righteous virgin girls like they were supposed to, this book is still an abomination to the written word. The writing would have a nice rhythm going with its sentences, just flowing along so well. And then she starts a new sentence. But it's just continuing the exact same thought from the last sentence. And it ruins the flow that was going on. This effectively drops brick walls everywhere until any whole thoughts are separated into pieces by the walls. Conjunctions =/= start a new sentence.You know what the "I mean" verbal tic is, right? I mean it's so annoying. I mean despite its use in a sentence, it's not clarifying anything; it's just an add-on at the beginning of a sentence. I noticed at the book how often it was showing up, so I kept count for the rest of the book. 101 times in 196 pages (with a margin of error of three uses because I make mistakes too). That's how many times the "I mean" verbal tic showed up. That is one every 1.94 pages. It's not even once every other page! It appears someone didn't get the memo that it's personality and depth, not overuse of an annoying verbal tic, that makes a realistic teen character.It can't even use proper grammar related to Christianity! I'm about as Christian as a rock you could find on the side of the road, but I know that when one talks about God, His name is capitalized as just demonstrated because He is greater or something like that. The book never does this, swiftly disrespecting Him despite being written with Him jammed in there every few pages.Then again, what was I expecting? Torch Red was published by an international Christian organization called The Navigators all the way back in 2004, when people thought rainbow parties were OMG real and kids were having them willy-nilly. In the end, it is only propaganda meant to preach, but its sex-related messages are no less damaging and I'm not going to be quiet when I see things like this. I want YA authors and publishers to know I and many other readers are not going to stand for slut shaming and purity myth indoctrination and scare tactics against sex anymore. I'm sick of it.As I'm sure I made a point of at the beginning of my review, red is a color that shades much, from the sexual to the everyday and mundane. Now Torch Red will meets it end in the color red. It's only fair. And so the Zoe curse (I end up hating a book if its main character is named Zoe) holds true. This is now the fifth book to be victim to that curse. I've never had this problem with any other name, just Zoe. Hell, there's only one fictional Zoe I do like and her name technically isn't Zoe!