AUTHOR :: Rachel Cohn
GENRE :: Young Adult
After being kicked out of a fancy New England boarding school, Cyd Charisse is back home in San Francisco with her parents, Sid and Nancy, in a household that drives her crazy. Lucky for Cyd, she’s always had Gingerbread, her childhood rag doll and confidante.
After Cyd tests her parents’ permissiveness, she is grounded in Alcatraz (as Cyd calls her room) and forbidden to see Shrimp, her surfer boyfriend. But when her incarceration proves too painful for the whole family, Cyd’s parents decide to send her to New York to meet her biological father and his family, whom Cyd has always longed to know.
Summer in the city is not what Cyd Charisse expects—and Cyd isn’t what her newfound family expects, either.
“I will be as wild as I wanna be.”
BOOK REVIEW ::
I read Gingerbread back in high school ( freshman year) and although I enjoyed it, I also can tell you that I was way too innocent to understand certain topics found in the book such as abortion, drug references, and adultery.
Before I get into those topics though I want to start off with the characters in the story…
Cyd Charisse is what you’d call a spoiled brat who “believes” she knows what she wants, hates being told what to do by those in authority, and has trouble making wise choices in life. I can’t put all the blame on her, especially when her origin story is already quite troubling, but her personality and behavior was enough for me to believe she deserved a smack on the bottom. Aside from being impulsive, addicted to sex, and hard to reason with, she also comes off as manipulative and controlling.
After her surfer boyfriend Shrimp decides that maybe they need to spend more time away from one another to find themselves and make new friends, Cyd immediately accuses Shrimp of getting friendly with a girl behind her back. Mind you, she has no evidence of this… it’s all suspicion most likely stemming from her own guilt of having a crush and checking out Shrimp’s older brother Wallace.
“I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”
– RhondaLISSA, Cyd’s half sister
While Cyd is quick to point out the shortcomings and mistakes of others, she has difficulty understanding that her own destructive behavior stands in the way of her growth. She is quick to defend herself for her terrible behavior but slow to acknowledge and apologize for it.
However, as I’ve mentioned before, she’s not all at fault. Being the product of a forbidden relationship, you can’t blame Cyd for having difficulty understanding her own confusion and anger. Her biological father Frank is a womanizer who, according to him, fell in love with Cyd’s mother Nancy while he was married with two children. As if that wasn’t enough, Nancy falls pregnant with Cyd, but soon realizes that Frank will never be able to support her as she wants. She decides to keep Cyd and raise her along with Frank’s college friend Sid, who acts like a father to Cyd while she is growing up.
Yeah, this is all a huge self-made mess coming from an upper-class family. Nancy sounds like the kind of high-class lady who is obsessed with outward appearance and first impressions. And since she spends so much time trying to make her family look good in front of other high-class families, she ignores Cyd’s feelings and fails to connect with her daughter at an age-appropriate level.
Then there’s Sid and Frank who come off as two workaholics who fail to pay attention to the well being of their families. While Sid made the ultimate sacrifice of caring for Cyd even though there was no reason in heck why he needed to, he often has trouble reprimanding Cyd. Sid comes across as the kind of stepfather who feels so sorry for his stepdaughter that he allows her too much freedom and offers too little discipline to keep her in check. While he and Nancy have the best intentions towards Cyd- sending her off to top boarding schools, having their personal chauffeur pick her up wherever she is, and even forbidding her to work at a coffee shop- it seems like they got so caught up in giving Cyd the best of everything that they forgot to connect with her on a personal level. And as for Frank… he seems like the kind of father who is too ashamed of his mistake of going behind his (deceased) wife’s back and getting his mistress pregnant so rather than admitting his mistake and putting on his big boy pants, he goes around telling others that Cyd is his niece (then changes it to God-child). Atta boy, Frank!
By the end of the book, after I was able to recollect my thoughts, the only two characters I felt sorry for more than Cyd herself were her half brother and half sister- Danny and Rhonda.
While Rhonda comes across as mean and bitter, a picture Cyd finds in her suitcase helps the reader understand where she is coming from. The picture is a painful reminder that not only were Cyd, Nancy, and Sid affected by the choices between Nancy and Frank… but that an already broken family had to endure even more pain and betrayal because of Frank’s foolishness.
Oh, please don’t think that I hated this book! Even though it is obvious that the book has some lousy characters who lack integrity and personal responsibility, the drama is quite amusing, and it does have a good ending.
While Cyd still has many [emotional and psychological] issues to address, she is able to come clean about her abortion and receive the support she desperately needed. Abortion is already such a heavy topic, and how this part of the book flew over the top of my head when I was younger is beyond me..
…but reading Cyd’s experience… it felt like I was reading the experience of many young girls in today’s day and age.
I’m not pro-abortion, but I know a thing or two about lacking support from people around you when you’re stuck in an unhealthy cycle of bad habits or falling victim to unfortunate circumstances. I know that it often feels better to hold secrets from those closest to you because of the fear of being bashed and condemned when you already feel a pound of guilt on your shoulders. In such cases, young women who do come forward and try seeking help are immediately pushed away or left to figure out their problems on their own, which adds to the stress they are already experiencing. While abortion has now become a women’s right in the U.S. with a large number believing that abortion is the best choice they’ve ever made in their lives, many other young women seek an abortion without understanding the psychological and emotional trauma that may come as a result of the abortion itself. Often times, many feel rushed to make a decision only to regret it afterward.
( While I have my views on abortion, this isn’t about who’s more right or more wrong. I’m only sharing an observation I’ve made from reading and hearing multiple stories- both pro and anti-abortion. )
Cyd is also a sex addict and has trouble separating her worth/value from her relationship with Shrimp. While she enjoys being with Shrimp, she cannot keep herself mentally and emotionally faithful to her partner. Despite her having a bit of a new mindset by the end of the book, it still seems that she’s not fully emotionally mature to engage in a romantic relationship. After all, she entered a relationship with Shrimp shortly after her fall out with Justin, the boy who impregnated her and failed to support her throughout and after the abortion.
While this book was more of a teenage, family drama, it certainly contains many topics that are still relevant today (this book came out in 2002). It takes a closer look into the mind of young teenagers with rebellious behavior/attitudes and helps the reader understand that behind the “confidence” so often displayed, and the arrogance that is enough to make you want to scream, there are underlying issues that even the person him/herself may be completely unaware of.
I’m glad I got the chance to read this book again. It is still a favorite and I cannot wait to read the second part to it -‘Shrimp.’
Thank you for reading!
Have you read this book before? If so, what did you think about it?