Published: July 21st, 2022
Genre: Mystery, Dark Comedy, Coming-of-Age Story, Urban Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this poignant, funny and affecting debut. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.
Wendy is lonely but coping.
All nineteen-year-old Wendy wants is to drive the 255 bus around Uddingston with her regulars on board, remember to buy milk when it runs out and just to be okay. After her mum died, there’s nobody to remind her to eat and what to do each day.
And Wendy is ready to step out of her comfort zone.
Each week she shows her social worker the progress she’s made, like the coasters she bought to spruce up the place, even if she forgets to make tea. And she even joins a writers’ group to share the stories she writes, like the one about a bullied boy who goes to Mars.
But everything changes when Wendy meets Ginger.
A teenager with flaming orange hair, Ginger’s so brave she’s wearing a coat that isn’t even waterproof. For the first time, Wendy has a real best friend. But as they begin the summer of their lives, Wendy wonders if things were simpler before. And that’s before she realizes just how much trouble Ginger is about to get them in…
An unforgettable debut novel from the winner of the Primadonna Prize 2019 which will stay with you long after the last page.
“Ginger and me were best friends that summer, she was the first best friend I’d ever had. I wish we could have stayed that way forever.”
Ginger and Me opens in Polmont Prison with narrator Wendy sure that she will be set free as soon as the mysterious reason she is there is cleared up. When she’s sent back to prison to await her trial after the initial hearing she is shocked and confused.
We then jump back to a year earlier. Wendy is living a solitary life following the death of her mother. She drives her bus and goes home, her only visitor is her support worker, Saanvi, who comes by weekly and encourages Wendy to step out of her comfort zone. Following her advice, Wendy befriends Ginger, a teenager she meets on her bus, and joins a local writing group. It’s the happiest she’s ever been and it is all about to spiral into tragedy…
“Things hadn’t gone exactly as planned but still, the bond between us was getting stronger with every meeting. It had taken me a long time to find my soulmate but now that I had, there was no way I was going to mess it up.”
Heartfelt, moving and achingly real, Ginger and Me is an accomplished debut that explores loneliness, grief, friendship, obsession and self-discovery. It claimed my attention quickly, the author holding me in the palm of her hands as she wove her lingering tale. Steadily paced with a suspenseful atmosphere that looms over every page, it is a cornucopia of heartbreak, tragedy and trauma with heart and humour woven in to help bring light to the darkness. And while we know from how it begins that Wendy will end up in prison, we don’t know what led her there, keeping me guessing and adding to the tension which builds to a shocking climax. And that ending! I still have chills.
“She was charismatic and fun, that’s what people forget when they focus on what happened later. I mean, if you read a book and your favourite character did something terrible on the first page, they’d never get the chance to become your favourite character, would they? No, you have to get to know them a bit first, learn what they are and what it is you like about them. Later when they do things you can’t deal with, well, it’s too late because you’re committed to liking them regardless.”
The story is narrated by Wendy, who talks directly to the reader, creating an intimate connection. She is a likeable, quirky and interesting character who is very literal, doesn’t see the world the way others do, and often misses what people mean or is really happening. It gives her an innocence and vulnerability that made me feel protective of her and there were times her lack of self-awareness broke my heart or made me cringe. I wished I could jump into the book and gently explain what was going on to help her avoid embarrassment and heartache. Ginger and Diane are also compelling characters. We only ever see them through Wendy’s eyes yet the author manages to create unique connections between them and the reader too. I felt a particular affection and maternal instinct towards Ginger, who is a troubled and often melancholy teenager who has a terrible home life and much darker problems that Wendy doesn’t quite grasp. I could see how she was desperate to be rescued but there was no one to save her. Elissa Soave took me on an emotional journey alongside these characters that lingers long after turning that final page.
“I think if you read books, it calms you down. And it makes you realise there’s a place for everybody, no matter how weird. It’s like, there’s a whole world out there and no one can stop you from entering, it’s open to anyone who wants to be part of it, even me. “
As a bibliophile, I love a book about books or characters who love books, so the fact that this book had both of those things made me so happy. felt a deeper connection to Wendy because of her love of books and could understand some of her feelings towards Diane as I know that feeling when an author seems to be writing what you’re thinking. All of the references to literature made this an even greater joy to read and made my bookish heart sing.
Funny, dark and poignant, Ginger and Me is a memorable debut you need on your TBR.
TW: Sexual abuse, death of a parent
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Elissa Soave is a Scottish writer. She won the Primadonna Prize 2019 and her debut novel, Ginger and Me, will be published by HQ Stories (HarperCollins) on 21 July 2022.
Elissa’s fiction is set in the domestic but often dangerous world of ordinary people. Her characters tend to be alienated, damaged, and often angry, but their perspective on the world and the way in which they deal with their problems will reassure readers of the resilience of the human spirit.
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx
Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
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