It’s always difficult to judge a book when it doesn’t live up to your own expectations, just because the book wasn’t what you thought it was does that make it a failure or is it your own failure to see the signs.
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, has a cover, and title that stands out amongst a lot of YA. This combined with the blurb, mentioning an upcoming apocalypse, let me think this was a fantasy story of regular people with the occasional super power. In actuality it is a coming of age romance, something that is not typically my cup of tea. As such, personally I didn’t enjoy this book to much, however I did stick it through and finished it and there is a lot to recommend it.
Let’s talk about the problems with the book first, one of the most important things for a YA is to have an authentic voice, and while the main character did feel very real to me she also felt a little younger than her actual age. She is 17-18 but comes across as 14-16 pretending to be 18, that small difference made the beginning of the book particularly difficult to find engaging. However, if the reader is in their early teens the voice will no doubt resonant.
I may have mentioned that romances were not my cup of tea, however I have a particular distaste for the ‘you’re my best friend and I never realised my feelings for you’ trope. Meaning that as soon as the protagonist Alba introduced her friend who she couldn’t imagine life without and assured the audience that it ‘wasn’t like that’, I had to groan. That said since her friend ship group is a good mix of girls and boys it avoids failing into a reinforcement of men and women can’t be friends, and I do appreciate that. There is also the introduction of the old love, the boy who left when kids but is now back in town. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to really develop a personality beyond, charming with a hint of sleazy. Basically I really couldn’t care less about the romance and it does take up a good percentage of the book. It ends a little too cleanly for my taste. That said I do feel that if those particular tropes don’t bother you the tension feels realistic, and increased by the unique situation within the book. While I don’t like that Alba apparently had no idea of Grady’s attraction while he was silently pinning away for seventeen years, it does well to never make it come across as though he’s been lying in wait for her. It’s difficult to avoid a creepiness factor with these kinds of stories and I feel the author, Melissa Keil, handles it well.
Now let’s talk positives, I like Alba a lot, I like her confidence I like her interests, I like her uncertainty about her future. The comic name dropping happens frequently and I can imagine some of it coming across as a little foreign to non-comic fans, however it still provides plenty of well-known examples. You don’t get as good a grasp on the rest of the characters, Grady to me never felt like anything other than a love interest, he didn’t appear to have anything that existed outside of Alba. With the rest of the friends however, they did all feel different, and you did get the sense that this was a group who hung out together frequently.
The book however really shines it two elements, one is the set up. YA is an increasingly popular genre for all age readers because the emotions are often so tense, we give a lot more leeway for an 18 year old to believe that this year of high school is the most important thing in the world, more than we would an adult talking about a year of work. Emotions are higher as a teenager, and you don’t always have the perspective that age brings. Finding ways of increasing that tension is probably why you see so many paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi dystopia on the books shelves now. The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, has a small country town suddenly beset by scores of party seeking travellers when a viral video declares it the safe point for the upcoming apocalypse. It is an unusual situation but one that we can completely believe, we’ve seen people celebrate and travel when the end of the world is said to be nigh. The situation is tense but never too out of hand, however the disruption to Alba’s world is a nice parallel to the emotional one she’s feeling.
For Alba, this year will be the end of the world, one way or another. High School is over, her friends are going to drift apart and she doesn’t know what to do with her future. This is the real strength and the real centre to the book. Alba’s world is being split open, it’s an exciting experience for some and frightening experience for many, the tension and uncertainty feel genuine. As the story of a young comic fan, dealing with the question of who she is and who she’ll be in the future and the fear of if she’ll ever be able to make it in her career do make it a compelling read. Even for someone like myself who doesn’t enjoy the large section dedicated to the romance.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.