Recommended for ages 13+
Alba is a teen who loves her life just the way it is. She and her mom live behind the bakery her mother runs in Eden Valley, a small, South Australian town. She loves Wonder Woman, comics and pop culture, and her close-knit group of friends, especially her best friend, Grady. Everything is pretty perfect – until it’s not.
First, a YouTube video from some wacko doomsday preacher goes viral. The problem? He claims that Eden Valley will be the one safe spot on the planet, which brings doomsday fanatics flooding into the Valley, setting up campsites on any available patch of land. Then, Daniel Gordon arrives on the scene: Alba and Grady’s childhood friend who went on to become a B-list heartthrob on a nighttime TV soap opera. He’s giving off signals that cause some confusing feelings for Alba, especially when Grady starts acting even weirder. Even Cinnamon Girl, Alba’s superheroine creation, is stumping her lately; she just can’t seem to find inspiration for Cinnamon’s continuing adventures. Can she get all of this worked out before the world ends?
I loved this book! There are fantastic comic book and pop culture references (Wonder Woman fans will be especially thrilled), and Alba is a great protagonist and teen role model. She’s body-positive, with an early conversation about her body and breasts that made me laugh out loud; she thinks she’s aware of who she is and her place in the world, until the outside world intrudes on the little bubble she’s created for herself and she finds herself faced with some big decisions.
This is an end of times story, but not necessarily the end of times you think it is. It’s a crossroads story, an end of childhood story, and for many people, entering adulthood and leaving high school behind can feel like it’s all coming to an end. I loved Alba’s narration and found it real; believable. Alba’s snarky narration is wonderful and refreshing, particularly when the world seems to be showing up on her doorstep and appear to have left their manners at home. The black and white comic art throughout the book made me really want to see a Cinnamon Girl comic book. Maybe we’ll get some further adventures of Alba, with prose and a graphic novel woven together to create a narrative a la I Am Princess X? Probably not, but that’s okay – The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is a standout, standalone novel that Rainbow Rowell fans will devour. This book will also make a great graduation gift for the teens in your life; let them know that you know adulting is hard, but this book will help ease the transition.
Melissa Keil is an Australian author whose debut novel, Life in Outer Space, won the 2013 Ampersand Project (and which is now on my TBR). Cinnamon Girl has been shortlisted for the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year. Check out her author website for more info on her books!