(Originally from the Bord Gais Energy Book Club website)
First impressions are crucial for me when it comes to a new book, particularly one I stumble across in a bookstore. The most important ones are usually (in some sort of order) cover, title, author, blurb on the back and first page.
I’ll be honest; when I got Janet Cameron’s Cinnamon Toast And The End Of The World in the post from the BGE Book Club I had 2 immediate thoughts, for better or worse. The cover made me think it was that most maligned of genres, particularly by male readers – chick lit. It’s not. The title made me think it was teenage chick-lit. It’s not. The author was unknown to me (this is her first novel), and the blurb told me it was a coming of age high school tale in the 80s.
At this stage I was gone. I read a lot of non-fiction, literary fiction, sci-fi… I was fully prepared to give it my best shot, skim over stuff when if I got bored and write something politely vague (I hate being negative about other people’s creations, particularly when I’ve failed to produce mine for so many years!)
Here’s the thing – from the actual first page on, the actual novel, I was totally thrown.
I hate reviews that tell you the whole story, so I’m not going to ruin the plot for you, save to say that it’s the last three months of high school in a tiny Canadian town for a teenage boy who falls in love with his lifelong best friend and finally acknowledges that he’s gay.
I raced through it, found it hard to put it down when I had to and wanted more when I was finished. She writes her main protagonist Stephen vividly and humanly and peoples the rest of the world around him with REAL people; not the easiest thing to do in a genre that’s full of well trodden ground. Her prose gets more elegant the further you get in and, the further and further Stephen gets into what he sees as the end of his own personal world, the more you genuinely care for him and the screwed up kids and adults that populate his world.
Again, not easy.
For some reason (and not because they’re similar stories, they aren’t) it reminded me of reading Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm when I was a lot younger. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if someone were to option this for a film too. It’d do well.
It’s far from perfect (how many first novels are?) but it’s page-turning, top drawer stuff in the genre it lives in.
This is Janet Cameron’s first novel. I’d buy the second. More please.