Gingerbread

Cyd Charisse is the daughter from hell, who is carrying around an awful secret within herself. Sixteen, with raging hormones and a uniquely solipsistic view of world, she makes life unbearable not only for herself but for those around her who try hard to keep loving her. Although she has never known her biological father, she has idealised him to a point where she can barely tolerate her own mother and stepfather, and they in turn are hurting badly at her attitude to them and their home. Life for everyone except Cyd is, for different reasons, constrained by a conspiracy of courtesy.

I found the first half of this book both witty and terrible in its relentless pursuit of teen vocabulary. Author Rachel Cohn has constructed in Cyd a well-rounded asshole who speaks without thinking, acknowledges no boundaries whatsoever on her behaviour towards others, is prone to self-harming, and whose suppressed secret-induced rage makes her a walking timebomb. I say ‘well-rounded’ because Cyd, at a deep level, has enough insight to know what she is doing to herself and others. But if she is to acknowledge that, then she will have to open up her secret.

Redemption is just around the corner, in the form of the not-so-perfect-after-all biological father intertwined with a good dose of family lore, wisdom and truth, which Cohn has handled quite beautifully. This is secrets and lies at its very best.