Saturday, July 22, 2006

Shrimp by Rachel Cohn

I finished Shrimp by Rachel Cohn a few days ago, and am finally getting around to writing about it. Of course I have been raving to my daughters and their friends, or at least any who would listen! I love Cohn who has the rebellious teen voice down to an art. She easily makes you forget that Cyd Charisse (aka CC) and her pint-sized, surfer boy friend, Shrimp not real kids that you actually know. Man she’s good.

At first I thought this might truly be Shrimp’s story which is at least as interesting as CC’s . The book’s title doesn’t deceive for long though. Cyd Charisse is as ‘front and centre’ here as she was in Gingerbread. In fact, she is the narrator, so Shrimp is seen through her eyes, and as anyone who has ever spent time around teenager knows, they tend to be a smidge self-absorbed. Shrimp starts out with CC’s end of summer return from NY where she has met her bio dad Frank and step siblings. She is determined to devote the last year of high school to her ‘true love and soul mate,’ Shrimp. Problem.— Shrimp broke up with her at beginning of the previous summer, so she has to convince him of said true love. Shrimp is nowhere to be seen the first week of school. CC meets up with a few of Shrimps friends, both girls. The jealously may be expected, but Cohn’s adept handling of budding friendships is not. It is truly a measure of her skill that she turns the predictable into an unexpected twist which adds depth to the novel and to CC’s character. When Shrimp finally does show up, he thwarts CC with the ‘lets-just-be-friends’ line. While hooking up with Shrimp drives CC her new single status allows her a first time ever opportunity to hang with her new found girlfriends.

The push and pull in the relationship between CC and her mother, and later on in the novel, between Cyd Charisse and her step-dad gave me flashbacks of when my kids were teenagers. The depth is something that adults and kids will appreciate alike, although some adults may balk at occasional four letter words. Still, Cohn never uses offensive language gratuitously; unlike so many of the films teens watch where gratuitous language, sex and violence are the norm. In fact, the way Cohn handles sex in the novel could be the topic of a ‘how to’ course for wanna be writers.

The thing I liked most about this book is the growth in Cyd Charisse. By novel’s end, she is a very different girl than the one who came back from NY with the sole aim of reestablishing herself as Shrimp’s girlfriend. While she has no problems breaking out of parental plans for her, Shrimp’s are another matter. So does CC hook up with her soul mate and live happily ever after? Sigh…I’m not telling. You’ll just have to read it to find out. I promise, though, it will be a treat.

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