Gingerbread / Shrimp (by Rachel Cohn)

13 03 2012

There are only a few books a year that leave such an impression that you want to read as much as you can by that particular author: John Green, Barry Lyga, A.S. King… Last year, the cat was completely enchanted by the Cohn/Levithan collaboration Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares. The result was first checking out what David Levithan was capable of all on his own… The result: Boy Meets Boy, the perfect antidote to doom, gloom and vampire books. Rachel Cohn’s solo-efforts were a little harder to come by for the cat, though, as both Gingerbread and Shrimp were no longer available, except as discarded library books (like, for real???) for the incredible price of 0.01£ each + shipping charges (again, for real??).

In Gingerbread Cyd Charisse gets kicked out of a fancy New England boarding school after a couple of indiscretions with a certain boy, which also, but not exclusively involved drugs, and returns to San Francisco, where she’s better known as the Little Hellion, a true attestation of her rebellious spirit. In San Francisco, she continues her wild adventures, involving coffee and a boy called Shrimp who she is convinced is her True Love. Cyd’s mother clearly cannot handle Cyd and after she’s been up to one too many tricks she has to spend the summer with her biological father Frank, who she’s seen only once in her life, when she was five, and whose only claim to fame was that he gave her a rag doll – Gingerbread – which Cyd still carries around everywhere, and that he helped her deal with a certain Problem she had. Enter a summer in New York City. In Shrimp, Cyd is back in San Francisco after having spent that summer in New York with her bio-dad and her brother Danny and his boyfriend Aaron. Set on rekindling the romance with her True Love Shrimp, Cyd also has to make decisions about her future: college or no college, Shrimp or no Shrimp.

The question whether Cohn’s books are worth the £0.02 is indisputable (I mean, seriously?). In the Cohn/Levithan collaborations it was never a question as to whose writing the cat preferred, because both authors wrote so convincingly and in character, that it was hard to pick a favorite. But after reading solo work by both authors it’s not difficult to see that Levithan is where the heart lies and Cohn is where the edge is: Cyd Charisse is nothing if not an individualist, tense to the max, outspoken in her opinions, and pushes boundaries like no other. Definitely a character that you can’t like all of the time, lots of angst going on there, almost all of the time!

The beauty of the Cohn/Levithan collaboration, though, is that they make each other better in what they are already good at. This is especially true for Rachel Cohn. Cyd Charisse is the definition of edge. But the edge in Cohn’s writing is definitely toned down by Levithan’s heart. Luckily Cohn doesn’t lose the edge, of course, but it’s quite understandable that for some the Cyd Charisse series might come over as too harsh, too gratuitous, too much like your typical teen rebel story with a character you will love to hate. However, the typical teenage antics that Cyd is up to, are just that: typical teenage antics, hiding away a lot of anger and especially fears and insecurities (there’s a lot of stuff that is unresolved, especially concerning her ‘Problem’ with the boy of the boarding school).

Gingerbread was Cohn’s debut novel. There are a few issues, of course, but Cohn’s witty brilliance definitely shines through, and with Cyd Charisse she’s created a character that you will love to hate at first, appreciate and understand later (Shrimp is definitely more fleshed out than Gingerbread), and maybe even love by the end of the trilogy (don’t know, still need to read Cupcake). Still prefer the collaborations with David Levithan, though…



One response

16 04 2013
Very LeFreak (by Rachel Cohn) | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] she’s collaborating with another writer/editor. Very LeFreak even seems too much a rehashing of a Cyd Charisse books, and the hipster-speak that seemed kinda cool in those books, now just feels as hollow and fake as […]

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