Red is 16 and lives with Granny in a cottage in the village, where boarding up the house and hiding during wolftime is a means of survival. Red helps Granny with Granny's baked good business, catering as well as door-to-door (in a basket) sales. Red has a constant internal battle between her wild side and her strict, overprotective upbringing, and the issue of "control" as she discovers she has a hot temper when the "mean girls" push her too far. ("When we learn to control it, we needn't fear it", Rumplestiltskin says in the series.) She has flashbacks to her 13th year when she received her cloak and the nickname "Red". She is plagued by nightmares that she doesn't understand, but the Once Upon a Time fans will recognize them as her wolf side coming. Also, the forest creatures that used to accompany her on her deliveries are suddenly afraid of her once she turns 13. She'll be taller and faster than the others at her school, and witty and strong on the outside, though she has a soft side as well. Red balances the difficult times with Granny at home and the girls at school with an emerging and satisfying romance with Peter.
Chapters 1 to 5
Chapters 6 to 11
Chapters 12 to 16
Chapters 17 to 22
- Peter's birthday is given as May 12, and notes that he is 17 (six months older than Red).
- Red's gold cross necklace from the television show is expanded upon and given its own backstory as it is used as a plot device.
- How Red came to be known by her well-known nickname is explained, but her actual real name is never revealed.
- According to the novel, Red Riding Hood is 16 and her birthday is in November.
- Granny tells a story to Red about a castle that sunk underground. According to "Child of the Moon", the werewolves' den used to be the grand hall of a castle, until it sunk underground.
- The Enchanted Forest events take place before "Red-Handed".
- The time span of the novel begins on the morning of Saturday, May 12, shortly before wolfstime starts, and concludes on the evening of Friday, May 18, the last night of wolfstime.
- Granny suggests she and Red become bandits as a means of earning more money. She further elaborates by saying that bandits plan distractions to loot passing carriages. Snow White, who Red would later befriend, would go on to become an infamous bandit, and use the very same tactic to loot Prince Charming and Princess Abigail's carriage in "Snow Falls".
- Amos Slade is named after the character of the same name from the Disney film The Fox and The Hound (in the novel, the character is known as the Master).
- Red compares her cloak to "the feather in that story Granny used to tell to me about the elephant with the big ears". This is a reference to Disney's Dumbo.
- This novel contains a number of other references to Disney works. See the List of Disney References for more.
Fairytales and Folklore
- This novel features Red Riding Hood and her grandmother from the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairytale, Peter from Peter and the Wolf, and the Master and Copper from The Fox and the Hound.
- Werewolves, simply referred to as "wolves", appear in this story. Werewolves are creatures from European mythology.
- Dragons are mentioned in chapter 1, 2, 8, 14 and 19, while a small statue of a dragon appears in Knubbin's home in chapter 14. Dragons are creatures from European, Asian and Middle Eastern folklore.
- Red says to Granny, "Aren't you going to tell me what a disgrace I am to the Lucas family? I'm all ears. Or maybe something like ‘If I hadn't delivered you with my own two hands, I would've sworn you were born of trolls’?", thinking to herself, "Everyone knew that trolls were worse cooks than ogres—or even royal princesses, for that matter." Trolls are giant, monstrous being from Scandinavian folklore, while ogres are creatures from European mythology.
- Later, Red thinks to herself, "After the catastrophe of Peter's birthday cake, I wanted to prove that I really could put any troll, ogre, or princess to shame in the kitchen."
- Red thinks about "stories of evil giants who used children's bones to pick food out of their teeth, or witches who fed boys and girls delectable sweets to fatten them up before feasting on their tender flesh". In folklore, giants are huge mythical being, while the witches are a reference to the witch from the story of "Hansel and Gretel".
- Red thinks about how she's heard of "fairy godmothers appearing out of thin air and making girls' dreams come true". Later, she thinks about how she's never met a fairy. Fairies are creatures from European mythology.
- Red wonders if the magic in her cloak is just a hoax, "like the tale about the emperor who was conned into thinking that he was decked in the finest clothes in the land, only to discover that he'd been parading around completely naked". This is a reference to the fairytale of "The Emperor's New Clothes".
- At school when Red gives Peter one of her grandmother's homemade muffins, he asks, "What is the occasion? My un-birthday?" An unbirthday was a phrase coined in Lewis Carroll's novel Through the Looking-Glass, and it means an event that is usually celebrated during any time of the year which is not on the person's birthday.
- When Red asks the talking crow Heathcliff when Knubbin will return to his cottage, he says, "Nevermore", the same repetitive phrase that the raven in Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven" uses. The word nevermore means "never again".