you were a teenager who was accepted into a prestigious school for the
arts, living on your own away from home. You like to keep to yourself
(for reasons you keep to yourself) but accidentally get caught up in
dangerous business that a trio of snotty rich kids stumbled into. Do you
help your fellow students or do you find a way to continue living under
the radar? This is Lumikki Anersson's situation.
Glittering white lay all around. Over the old snow, a new, clean layer of soft flakes had fallen fifteen minutes earlier. Fifteen minutes earlier, everything had still been possible. The world had looked beautiful, the future flickering somewhere in the distance: brighter, freer, more peaceful. A future worth risking everything, worth going all-in, worth trying to make a break for it.—As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017, p. 5 [opening])
- Setting: Contemporary times;Tampere, Finland
- Circumstances: Lumikki (whose name means Snow White), discovers €30,000, newly washed, in the high-school dark room. She doesn't touch the money, but three other students are now worried she'll rat them out. Instead of turning Elisa (daughter of a cop), Tuukka (son of the principal), and Kasper over to authorities, she helps them figure out how a backpack full of blood-soaked bills ended up in Elisa's backyard.
- Genre: Scandinavian thriller / mystery
- Themes: friendship; being different; drugs; corruption; bullying; affairs of the heart
- Characters: Lumikki, an all-A student who's hoping to be a painter; Elisa, daughter of a police detective who appears to be a spoiled rich kid; Tuukka and Kasper, Elisa's sidekicks, who like drugs and enjoy their popularity at school; various bad guys involved in a Russian-Scandinavian drug cartel; the kids' parents
- Why I read this: I said yes to this novel because the book was pitched a "Nordic noir for young adults," and that caught my attention. One of my goals this year is to read more books in translation, and As Red As Blood is translated from the original Finnish. Finally, I've enjoyed several Scandinavian crime series, so I figured this would be a good match for me.
- General thoughts: Let me jump to chase: I found the book to be only okay. One of the problems was that Simukka was trying to do too much in this first installment of a trilogy starring Lumikki: we have flashbacks to Lumikki's young childhood, we have high school/teen issues, we have things happening in a very adult drug cartel, and we see life in Elisa's house. Some of these plot lines were better developed than others, but I never fully connected with any of them.
- Lumikki and the central plot: (I'm purposely vague here so I don't spoil the story for you.) I didn't quite buy all of Lumikki's talents and her ability to infiltrate certain social events or to extract herself from trouble. Simukka gave Lumikki a well-rounded background, but still, I'm not sure the teen could have escaped from all those situations relatively unscathed. Lady luck was always on Lumikki's side.
- Audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Listening Library; 7 hr, 26 min) read by Ann Marie Lee. I can only assume that Lee pronounced the Finnish words and names correctly because her accent (as far as I could tell) was consistent. Her narration was expressive and sounded appropriately young, but her delivery was excessively earnest and somewhat choppy. I stuck with the audiobook, but my recommendation is to read As Red As Blood in print or at least to listen to a sample of the production before committing.
- Extras: Note that Salla Simukka's novel won starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus,and Publishers Weekly and the School Library Journal liked it too. So perhaps it's not the novel but just me. The other books in the series are titled As White As Snow and As Black As Ebony. If I continue with Lumikki's story, I'll be turning to print.