Gingerbread Girl by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Gingerbread Girl
This is the most eccentric book I've ever read. I actually gave up on it halfway through, because it was stretching my imagination way too far, but then I checked out some reviews that this book received, and they've all been very strong and positive. So, then I suspended my disbelief real well and got back to reading it. Besides, being a graphic novel, it was easier to decide whether to continue with it or not. Once I was done with it, I wasn't in love with it, but I could see the point of the author and why it was well-received.

Twenty-six year old Annah Billips has all the normal tastes in things - she likes sushi, hates beer breath, and loves to travel. She likes to date both boys and girls and has been dating a girl, Chili, and a guy, Jerry, because she still has not decided on her sexual orientation. She believes that she has a sister. Now the eccentric part - the sister was created from a part of her brain. Weird, huh? So, there's a part of your brain (the homunculus) that is in sync with every part of your body, such as what your hand is touching, where your legs are. It's also the part that feels pain, desire, etc. Annah claims that her mad scientist father extracted that part of her brain and created this whole new person, who is the titular gingerbread girl of this book. You know, gingerbread man, the way she visualizes her sister's creation reminded her of the gingerbread man.

The whole book then follows a myriad characters, such as a magician, a pigeon, a thief, a store clerk, a bulldog and even Chili and Jerry, who all narrate what they know about Annah. They don't really believe her tale but they don't dismiss it either, because they have seen some proof of the sister's existence. They explain why although the idea of a person created from someone's brain feels weird, they cannot say for sure that there is no sister. There are times when they have seen someone who appeared to be Annah but eventually didn't "seem to be" Annah. Gingerbread Girl doesn't try to make you believe either theory but rather questions your beliefs. At the core, it asks us what we really know about a person.

Annah's childhood was anything but fun. Some harrowing experiences shaped her outlook during her younger years and they are revealed in flashes. And although she appears jovial and full of life now, there are times when certain things trigger strange emotions or reactions in her. I was disappointed about not getting any closure in the end, but when I thought about it, I could see why it was supposed to end that way. Once the reader chooses to either believe or not believe Annah's story of her sister, the rest of the story falls in place easily. I would imagine none of us would buy the idea of a person being created from a brain, unless we were reading fantasy, and that's what makes some of the last few pages very harrowing to read. The more I learned about Annah, the more I was left feeling sad for what happened to her, and that shaped how my opinion of her kept changing.

The graphics in the book reminded me of the Archie comics. The drawings are light and fun and they seem to fit the vivacious nature of Annah. In the end, although I enjoyed reading this book (after I decided to give it a second chance), I wouldn't count it as a top read. Some of the interrupted narration, as other characters popped in to give their version of the story, disturbed the flow for me. It was certainly thought-provoking and mostly I was glad how eccentric a book can be and still leave you wondering about a lot of things. 

I received this book for free for review from the publisher, Top Shelf Productions via NetGalley. Gingerbread Girl made its debut on July 12, 2011.


20 comments:

Giving Reading said...

Well, I am not sure I will be able to suspend my belief so much!

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

I love the drawing, but suspect the book's not for me.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy... said...

Sounds deceptively deep.

Helen Murdoch said...

Hmmm. Not sure this is the one for me, but I am impressed that you went back to it after abandoning it the first time around. As a graphic novel it was probably a fairly fast read, so that helps

zibilee said...

How weird this sounds, Aths! I like the idea of never really knowing the truth and having to basically choose a side to have closure, but I am wondering if this book is just too strange for me, which is saying a whole lot, because I usually gravitate toward strangeness. I might have to take this one out of the library and give it a look over. It's really hard for me to pass up something this eccentric! This also was a wonderful review, by the way!

Athira / Aths said...

Haha! I know. It's pretty hard for me too. The only reason I stuck with it was in the end, the reason for Annah's weird belief turned out to be a simple matter.

Athira / Aths said...

This might not work for everyone. It took me a while to get in.

Athira / Aths said...

Yeah, that's spot on actually. It's presented in a light style but there's some deep meanings.

Athira / Aths said...

I guess I wouldn't have returned back to the book had it been a prose-based book. Since it was a graphic novel, I figured it wouldn't take too much time.

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! I hope you read it. It is eccentric but it reaches a conclusion too. There is no closure, but I thought that was consistent with matters of this kind. I think I was just expecting it to be put out in the clear but it was mostly hinted at and none of the characters knew for sure.

Mike Draper said...

Aths, You hit it on the head. This is weird.
Mike

Meg @ write meg! said...

Definitely a unique premise, and not sure if it would be a book for me! But I appreciated your insights and thoughtful review, as always. You're good to return to a book -- once I've given up, it's hard to ever open it again.

Athira / Aths said...

I agree! It certainly is.

Athira / Aths said...

I wouldn't have gone back to reading it if it were not a graphic novel. I guess the graphic medium makes it easier to persist. In the end I was glad I gave it a second chance.

Marie said...

I'm glad you gave it another chance! I'm going to go check it out myself now. I didn't know Top Shelf was on NetGalley!

Pussreboots said...

The reviews have been mixed. I really liked it but I was in the right frame of mind for it from other reading I've been doing. 

Kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Wow, I hadn't heard of this one, but it sounds extremely original and interesting! Now I just have to read it.

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! I hope you like it! Will be looking forward to your thoughts!

Athira / Aths said...

Glad that you did! It was an enjoyable read once I let loose my beliefs.

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! Hope you enjoy it!