From that time on, the world was hers for the reading....

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rachel Cohn: Gingerbread, Shrimp & Cupcake

Ever since I read Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, I've wanted to read other books by them. When I saw that my library had Rachel Cohn's Cyd Charisse books, I grabbed them!

In Gingerbread, we meet Cyd Charisse, "recovering hellion." After getting kicked out of a fancy private school in New England, Cyd is living back at home in San Francisco with her mom (Nancy), step-father (Sid, whom she refers to as "Sid-dad"), and her two younger step-siblings (Josh & Ashley). Her family drives her crazy, but serving coffee at Java the Hut and spending time with her boyfriend Shrimp keep her sane. But things are turned upside down when Cyd is grounded and Shrimp breaks up with her. Tired of Cyd's attitude and behavior, Nancy decides to send her to spend time with her biological father Frank--whom she only met once when she was five years old--in New York City for the summer. While there, she meets her half-siblings (Danny & Lisbeth), makes peace with Frank, runs into her ex-boyfriend Justin, and is forced to deal with the emotional ramifications of an abortion she had a year ago (the scene where she comes clean to her mom is very real and touching). More importantly, Cyd discovers the importance of family and her place in each of hers.

In Shrimp, Cyd is starting her senior year of high school. While most students are preparing for college and thinking about various career paths, Cyd is focusing on her future with Shrimp and is determined to get him back. Needless to say, this plan doesn't sit well with her parents, which leads to the usual family arguments and misunderstandings. To make matters worse, Shrimp--who spent time traveling in Papua New Guinea and has returned to San Francisco with his oddball and highly irresponsible parents--just wants to be Cyd's friend. Luckily, Cyd has a strong support system with new friends Helen & Autumn--her first age-appropriate girlfriends ever. Ultimately, she and Shrimp end up back together, but break up again, and Cyd finds herself being drawn back to New York City.

In Cupcake, Cyd is a high school graduate living with her half-brother Danny in New York City. The plan is to attend culinary school, but all she can really think about is Shrimp, who is surfing and writing haikus in New Zealand. As is the case with Cyd, things get a little chaotic. She breaks her leg, drops out of culinary school after one day, has a fling with an older man, gets a job serving coffee at a small luncheonette, and finds Shrimp on her doorstep at Christmas time. She has to decide whether she wants to return to San Francisco to be with her "true love" or continue building a life of her own in New York.

When I first started reading Gingerbread, I honestly didn't like it. I found the dialogue to be a bit much--a little too Juno for me ("I am the cup to his cake."). But once I got used to that, I found Cyd to be a very complex, vulnerable, real character that I liked.

Her journey was made even more interesting by the entertaining characters that surrounded her. My favorite was Sugar Pie, a feisty, seventy-something woman Cyd met and befriended while performing mandatory community service. Sugar Pie is a no-nonsense-tell-it-like-it-is broad. I wish my world was filled with so many colorful characters.

All in all, I enjoyed meeting Cyd and watching her grow from a boy-obsessed "hellion" to a confident woman with goals and ambitions of her own.

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