lies knives and girls in red dresses

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge, illustrated by Andrea Dezso

Just for teens, Koertge has created subversive poems based on fairy tales that look at what happens after “Happily Ever After.”  You will meet a Little Red Riding Hood who wanted to be swallowed whole just to see what it felt like inside a wolf.  There’s also a Beast who longs for the days of wild abandon rather than being a prince again.  What happens when the boy who said the emperor had no clothes is pressured to fit in with the crowd?  Hansel and Gretel may just have been a lot closer and a lot more disturbed than readers thought.  And could Rapunzel long for the days when the witch thought only of her rather than her prince who is distracted?  Koertge plays with the idea of “ever after” and works in the same darkness and sexuality that is already in the stories if you just look at them differently.

This is not a poetry collection to hand to younger readers who are interested in fairy tales.  Rather, this is a dark delight for teens who remember the stories.  There are more obscure tales included in the book, a couple of which I had never read.  I enjoyed those poems as well, since Koertge works in backstory in his poems.  In most of the poems there is an adroit twist about them, sometimes involving the modern world and other times looking at the story in a new and twisted way.

Deszso’s illustrations are done entirely in black and white.  They are paper cutouts that have astonishing details cut into them.  The mood of the illustrations matches that of the poetry, there is a playfulness about them but also a terrific darkness too.

This entire book was like a box of the darkest chocolates.  They held surprises inside and you simply can’t stop reading them.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.