“If I drew my life right at this moment, I’d want it to look something like this brilliant comic-book panel from Wonder Woman…in this one moment she is content, and home.’
– Melissa Keil, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
A couple of years ago I was given a book proof to read by my manager at the time because she thought that it sounded like something I would like to read. She was right! The book was Life From Outer Space by debut author Melissa Keil, the first author to be published by the Ampersand Project, a new initiative from Hardie Grant Egmont to provide a chance for young adult fiction writers to be published.
Keil takes a classic storyline and adds her own magic to it. I was so excited to discover that she had a new book out that I ordered it straight away and it appeared on my desk three days later! Thankfully, I had finished my last book that morning on the train so I was able to start it straight away!
Alba and Grady have just finished high school and are about to spend their last summer at home before venturing off into the big wide world. Surrounded by their friends, they look to make the most of their last few weeks together.
The only problem for Alba is she doesn’t know where she is going or what she is doing. A talented artist, Alba is comic book mad and is working on one of her own. Although it seems that her creation – Cinnamon Girl – is not behaving how Alba would like her too. But then again, neither is Grady, her best friend or the small country town where she lives. A week before Christmas, a small time TV presenter makes an announcement that the end of the world is coming and the town to survive the doomsday event is Alba’s own, meaning that the town quickly fills with ‘hippies’ and apocalypse enthusiasts waiting for the end of the world. Alba’s inner turmoil is reflected in what is happening around her and whilst everyone else can see what she is stressing about, it takes a while for Alba to get it herself… as is generally the way! We must work these things out for our selves!
In a beautiful ‘the-boy/girl-next-door’ story, Keil takes the reader down a path that feels both nostalgic and fresh. She has a wonderful ability to create a sense of place; it is so easy to put yourself in Alba’s shoes to see and feel what she does. I love the way that Alba’s emotions come out through her art – she doesn’t understand how she feels but Cinnamon Girl gets it completely. Keil captures the joys of finishing high school as well as the inevitable changes that follow, and how it is so easy to stay where it is comfortable instead of venturing out and trying new things.
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is a refreshing change to the current trend in young adult fiction; the characters are all perfectly ordinary and live ordinary lives. They are delightful and light and it is exactly what I love about YA fiction.