The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil, or TIAOCG, as I will refer to it, is a
cutesy, relatable contemporary about figuring out where you want to go in life and dealing with the future. There's love, comics, friendship and the apocalypse, so basically, it's the whole package.
The story follows Sarah Albany, or Alba, a wannabe comic book artist living in a small, rural town. She lives in a bakery and wakes up to the smell of cooking pastries and cinnamon every morning, and between this and her group of close friends and caring mother, Alba is pretty happy with her life.
But with school over, and her friends wanting to leave, a boy she never thought she'd see again returning to town, a misbehaving superhero and the apocalypse, Alba's life is thrown unexpectedly into the deep end, leaving her confused and unsure.
TIAOCG is a beautiful, 4 star novel by one of my current favourite Australian authors, Melissa Keil, the author of Life In Outer Space. I recommend it as a cute, light read, so if you haven't read it, go grab yourself a copy and head back here to read my review and discuss!
Right. Cinnamon Girl has so many interesting aspects of it, I don't quite know where to start!
Firstly, the setting. TIAOCG is set in a small, rural Victorian (I mean the state, not the era) town called Eden Valley. Eden Valley was made out by the characters to be some sort of farming hell hole that everyone wants to escape, but I couldn't help seeing it as kind of a cute little town. Everyone was so friendly to one another and it seemed like quite the idyllic little community. I loved reading about a town like this, because it is so different to what I'm used to in a community. I barely know all the people in my street, let alone my whole neighbourhood! I definitely understood Alba and that she wanted to stay in Eden Valley, however I also understood Grady and Caroline and their desperate need to get out.
Speaking of which, I'll talk now about the characters and about my love for them. All the characters were so different, from Eddie to Grady, from Alba to Tia, they all had their own distinct personalities and you could empathise and understand each of them even though the story was in first person, in Alba's point of view. It was easy to love Grady from the start, but seeing as though the story ended the way it did, it's easy to assume Melissa Keil did this on purpose. I think she did the same thing in reverse for Daniel, however I my opinion, it did not give depth or explain his character any more.
I feel like Daniel was poorly characterised, because he went from being Alba's cute, doting best friend and then he came back and was this arrogant, careless teenage boy. And that makes sense, I mean he's come from a few years of being a bit of a celebrity, of course he'd be a bit arrogant. And so he's a bit flirty with Alba, and Keil seems to be setting Alba and Daniel up at this point, seeing as though she's eluded to Alba liking Daniel before he left and then Alba saying she gets butterflies when Daniel smiles at her.
But then, he buys her that diet book, which completely horrified me, and I lost all respect for his character. And here's the final catch- he seems to justify his awful behaviour by saying he was trying to set up Grady and Alba? It's a plot twist that completely came out of nowhere (which I'll elaborate on further in the review), and didn't really make sense or fit with Daniel's characterisation. Did Daniel never have any feelings, and was leading her on just to toy with her? Because no friend should or would ever do that. Or did he actually like her, which then doesn't fit with his final conversation with her, before he left? I didn't at all understand what was going on with Daniel, and it was a pretty major down point in this book for me, however it is one of very few down points.
Moving onto my second down point, which follows on nicely from my previous point, is the love triangle situation. To be perfectly honest, I didn't even see a love triangle, because Alba always said in her narration that Grady was like her brother. She made no sly comments or anything like that to let us as the audience know that she had any romantic attraction to Grady at all. In fact, she made more references to a possible attraction to Daniel, both before and after he left, than she ever did Grady. And it is for this reason I found the ending rather unbelievable. It wasn't even as if she said something along the lines of, "I finally realised what I'd been trying to ignore for so long- Grady was definitely more than a friend in my eyes" or "I had a sudden realisation that I'd loved Grady all along". She just basically said she'd loved him forever and that was that. It's hard to believe that she actually did like him, because there was absolutely nothing to foreshadow it at all, despite maybe some comments of how she thought he was beautiful. It was a shame I found the love triangle so unbelievable, because otherwise, this book might have been a 4.5 star.
On my final negative point, I personally felt Alba's narration very hard to get into. I found it bulky and awkward and much to informal for my tastes, but once I got into the story, I was able to shift into her narration style and get into the story more. I am very interested in what you guys think about the prose in Cinnamon Girl, and would very much appreciate a comment or tweet (@lilypherondale) or even a tumblr ask (sherlockcrumpets.tumblr.com) telling me your thoughts.
Shifting back into my positive points, the whole "the world is ending" part of this story was a really clever and interesting addition. If anything, it keeps the audience reading, because there's always that seed of doubt in our minds, just like there is in the characters', that maybe the world is going to end. I was really interested to see whether to world would end at the end of the story, however I was leaning more towards it not actually ending. And I was correct, so props for Lily!
Another thing I liked about TIAOCG was Alba's love of comics. Of course, being a bit of a nerd, I rather love comics, particularly Marvel and DC, so my heart leaped with joy at all the shameless references. I've read so few books where the female main character is geeky. Not "I read deep poetry and classic novels I'm so different" geeky, but genuinely geeky. And I loved Alba's fearlessness to display her geekiness. I know in our world today, lots of girls are told that "you only watched Captain America because of Chris Evans" or "you don't actually read the Avengers, you're just wearing that shirt as a fashion statement". Heck, it happens to me a lot! And so I adored the change of seeing a female main character be really geeky. It is a trend in Keil's books so far, so if you love all things nerdy and geeky and haven't read Life In Outer Space yet, I highly recommend you go find yourself a copy.
Speaking about comics, I really liked the whole storyline focusing on Cinnamon Girl the character, and I was so interested where Alba's art and invention of her character would go. As you can probably imagine, I was very satisfied when Cinnamon Girl worked out.
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl was just a very cute, light read that I really enjoyed. As always, please leave a comment, tweet (@lilypherondale) or even a tumblr ask (sherlockcrumpets.tumblr.com) to receive fun things like social media shout outs and follows.
I hope you've enjoyed this review and I'll see you next Sunday for another recommendation!