The Incredible Adventures Of Cinnamon Girl
Hardie Grant Egmont AUS
Purchased personal copy
Alba is comfortable with her life as it is. She lives with her mother in a small town, behind the bakery her mother runs. There’s comfort in her routine, waking up and helping prepare the day’s treats. She has a closeknit group of friends and although it seems that they’re all planning their futures once they finish year 12, Alba doesn’t want to think about that. She doesn’t want to think about them all possibly being separated and having to move somewhere else, somewhere that isn’t behind the bakery. Somewhere that isn’t home.
Alba’s comfortable life is about to get complicated. Firstly, a friend that long ago disappeared has come back into her life and he’s much changed. This seems to have affected the other boy in her life, Grady, who is now acting very strangely. Her comic book panels aren’t coming together the way they should, which makes her worry even more for the future. And the weirdest thing of all is that someone has predicted the world is going to end and the only place that might be safe is Alba’s small town, which leads to an influx of colourful characters.
But the impending end of the world is the least of Alba’s problems. She needs to figure out herself and what she wants before she can focus on whether or not it’s going to be her last day on Earth.
I read Melissa Keil’s Life In Outer Space and absolutely loved it – it was one of my top 10 YA reads of that year. I was a little slow to pick up this one. To be honest, I haven’t bought anywhere near as many books this year as previous years. I think it’s mostly because the experience of going into a local bookstore and browsing has basically been taken away from me. If I want to do that now, I need to go into Melbourne and that’s something I usually have to plan to do, although I don’t live all that far from the city. Recently we have made 2 trips to bookstores in Melbourne and I’ve probably purchased more books in those two trips than I have the for the rest of this year! And this book, The Incredible Adventures Of Cinnamon Girl, was one of them.
Perhaps it was how much I loved Life In Outer Space that any book Keil released after that was going to have a terrible time living up to that one. It’s not that this isn’t a good book or that I didn’t enjoy it – because it is and I did. But I have to admit, I didn’t love it as much as I expected. Although Alba’s voice is very fresh and casual and appealing, there are times when it verges on the manic, even at the beginning of the novel before the complications begin.
The characterisation is very well done though and I did like the character of Alba. She’s creative and fun – I am not a comic book reader but I did like the inclusion of the details of the panels that Alba works on. Her passion for it it is wonderful and I enjoyed seeing her creative process. Her eclectic little group of friends felt very realistic and I thought the dynamics of their friendship had a lot of thought put into it and was well constructed. Keil manages to build really strong relationships, between Alba and her mother, between Alba and Grady, without taking a huge amount of time to establish backstory. It’s small moments captured, that leads the reader to see the intimacy and closeness, as well as the discord when it begins to show.
I have to admit, the end of the world plot didn’t do a huge amount for me. It does very little other than to serve as the way in which an old friend comes back into Alba’s life and add a cast of ‘colourful’ peripheral characters to the story, none of which really have any bearing on the plot and few of which are necessary. The core friendship group is really all it needs and is what drives it forward. Although Alba is loveable she’s also very frustrating because she’s so clueless. She doesn’t know what she wants, she doesn’t know what those around her want, even when it’s so glaringly obvious! But even that felt real, because I remembered times in my past when I’d become frustrated at friends of mine, wanting to shake them and yell ‘Don’t you see?’
There were ebbs and flows in the bulk of the story but I have to say, the ending is amazing. It’s one of those scenes you want as a reader, where all of the angst and frustration and longing between the characters pays off in one emotionally charged declaration or moment. In this book, it is absolutely fantastic and with that I was able to invest in the characters and story in a way that I really hadn’t been able to up until that point.
Book #93 of 2015
The Incredible Adventures Of Cinnamon Girl is the 38th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015