Review: Red Tears by Joanna Kendrick

Red Tears - Joanna Kenrick

Red Tears is intense .....


I'll quote from the blurb: "I open the box. Inside it is softness and steel. Tissues and blades." Basically this is all you need to know. It's a story about self-harm. This is my problem with the book. That's all it is.


Emily is a fifteen, going on sixteen year old, stumbling through the vipers nest which is high school. She's an awkward perfectionist, burdened with the pressure to achieve well in her exams, friendships and family life. She reaches her breaking point and turns to self-harm to cope with her multitude of "problems".

I've been there. I know the deal. I identify with the situation in a loose way. I never had a problem with exams as I am a genius. I never had a problem with friendships as I looked down disdainfully at my peers. But I've been that low, I've gone to that place. However ..... I did not find Emily at all relatable or believable. I read 263 pages narrated by the chick but I am still completely in the dark about who she is. My beef with her is that she is so bland. Red Tears is not a story about a girl who self-harms, it is a story about self-harm.


Emily has no personality beyond being mildly irritating. She's paranoid, obsessive and violently boring. She has no likes or dislikes, she has no passions, plays no sports, reads no books, watches no movies besides the one animated film she sees with her family at the cinema. She has no ambitions, no plans for the future. She doesn't even have a pet. Now, you may argue that Emily is so depressed that she is unable to take an interest in her future or the world around her. I understand where that argument would be coming from. However, Emily is this dull right at the start of the book before any of the depression debacle even kicks off. She has no life, although she argues the contrary with her "best friend" Lizzie.


While on the subject of friends I do think that the bullying was well portrayed. Her friends were a group of bitches and skanks! They freeze Emily out good and proper, escalating to full-on psychological bullying. It's grim. I felt this aspect of the book was well developed. I can understand how this situation could occur in any high school, particularly an all girls school where the bitch-scale would be through the roof.


Patrice however was a whole other ball game. She was far too brief. So much more could have been made of this character. It's as if her problems with domestic violence and abuse were just swept under the rug. I feel the author used Patrice as a way to highlight the difference between using self-harm as a cry for help, as opposed to a coping mechanism. Which is fine. I think it's an important point to make, but it was done in such a blunt, clumsy way. Patrice was turned into no more than a cardboard cut-out. Even her name smacks of cartoon. Too bad really. I wanted to know more about her. I wanted Emily to step up and recognise someone with real heartbreak and struggle in her life.


Emily does briefly touch on the idea that perhaps her own problems are rather trivial compared with others and that perhaps she's over-reacting but this was never explored further. Emily never sits down and thinks about her actions. I understand that self-harm is addictive, but this doesn't mean that there's no thought behind it. I would have liked to see Emily make some inroads into helping herself. I think this would have been a more positive outcome, a message to suffers that you can pull yourself out of this black hole. And you can. I personally know you can.


Red Tears is an interesting read, it's just lacking a lot of character development and some better writing wouldn't have gone amiss too. It's just a bit clunky and unfinished I feel. It's fairly graphic, I mean if you don't have the stomach for a bit of blood don't bother with it. It was okay. Just not the accurate portrayal that I believed it would be.


Peace and love!