My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: Despite this being a very quick read and for a young audience, I had a very difficult time getting into this book. Not that I didn’t appreciate the characters and the storyline, but it just didn’t grab and hold me in several areas of the narrative. I’d like to explore more of the author’s work, considering there were parts of this I did like, but overall, it didn’t really leave an impression on me.
I feel bad in penning this review because usually I love period fiction, I love YA and MG period fiction as well – but I’m not sure what to say about my experience reading “Gingersnap.” The concept was great – about a young woman living in the 1940s. There are two distinct considerations here – one that “Gingersnap” (a.k.a. Jayna) is living with her landlord Celia after Jayna’s brother Rob is sent off to war. Before he goes, he drops news that they may have a grandmother who’s a cook and related to them, giving her a special blue cookbook. Jayna later learns that Rob may be MIA and sets off to Brooklyn to find her potential family because she feels like she needs to fill the void left from her brother’s absence. She’s helped along by a ghost who seems to have likenesses to her, but that ghost really didn’t do much other than annoy me and could’ve been taken out of the story altogether for all the good that it did.
The narrative in “Gingersnap” didn’t draw me in from the get-go and I had trouble following it, mainly because it felt so detached the whole time. It was like it moved from one plot point to the next with very little intimacy, even in such a brief piece. It was like a void of sorts. Sure the interactions between Jayna and her brother were cute to start, particularly aside from the stern, but well-meaning landlord, but I just couldn’t find any point of identification with the main character, particularly in the moment when Jayna realizes that her brother’s MIA – I would’ve thought it’d be given so much more weight than what it was. Even in works that focus mostly on slice of life and periodic elements, usually those have a richness in detail or periodic attention that allows you to immerse in the character’s experiences or frame of mind. Here – it simply felt empty and didn’t draw upon enough intimacy to count. I was very disappointed.
If there were elements that I did like about the book, the attention to cooking and the measure of that were intriguing and well presented, and the ending came across as sweet as well, but for a narrative that felt so sluggish even in its brevity for the majority of the book, I just couldn’t love it as much as I wanted to.
Overall score: 2/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Random House BFYR.