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Gingerbread Girl

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There are plenty of established facts concerning 26-year-old Annah Billips. She likes sushi and mountains, but hates paper cuts and beer breath. She dates girls and boys, and loves to travel. She may have a missing sister, or she might be insane. Did Annah invent an imaginary sister named Ginger during her parents' ferocious divorce, or did her mad scientist father extract part of her brain and transform it into a living twin?
In this graphic novel, a host of narrators including boyfriends, girlfriends, magicians, pigeons, bulldogs, and convenience store clerks follow Annah through a night in her life in an attempt to determine that one last fact about Annah...and the Gingerbread Girl.

112 pages, Deluxe Flexicover

First published June 7, 2011

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About the author

Paul Tobin

507 books368 followers
Paul Tobin is the Eisner-award winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Bandette, Colder, and many other comic books and graphic series.

Bandette, drawn by Colleen Coover, was awarded the Eisner Award for Best Digital Series in 2013, 2016, and 2017; and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award for Graphic Literature in 2016. His original graphic novel I Was the Cat was nominated for an Eisner in 2015.

The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat , first in his five-book series of middle-grade books, came out in 2016 from Bloomsbury Kids. It was followed in 2017 by How To Outsmart A billion Robot Bees , and How To Tame A Human Tornado in March 2018.

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5 stars
32 (6%)
4 stars
137 (28%)
3 stars
191 (39%)
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95 (19%)
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27 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 101 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 65 books231k followers
February 20, 2015
A truly unique sort of comic. I've never read anything like it before.

Fair warning: it's not a conventional story. But I found it a delightful departure from standard storytelling.

Highly recommended: But only for a certain audience.

Odds are you won't like it if:

You're only into superhero comics
You only read D&D novels or thrillers or horror....
(Which indicates you're mostly into action-centered stories)
If you only read the works of a few authors over and over
(Which indicates you're not terribly experimental with your reading.)

The more of the following criterion you fit, the better the odds that you'll like this book:

You enjoy indie comics
You enjoyed Slow Regard of Silent Things
You enjoy stories because of interesting characters more than plot
You're a writer

Yeah. My gut tells me that people who like this comic will love it. While people that don't, will roll their eyes a lot and get pissed.

But what it does, it does exceptionally well.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
February 27, 2015
Eh. I really kind of wanted to like this book with its lighthearted artistic feel and kooky, crazy bisexual main girl character but I just mostly did not. The art is good as it sort of helps undermine the overly talky and expositional text, where little happens in the actual plot… but it feels a little too cartoony or childish for its story…. which involves a framework of…. neurobiology where the separation of the girl's Penfield Homunculus (that's in our brains, duh) from her body creates a shadow character who is also known for no particular reason as The Gingerbread Girl. Losing you already? Exactly! That's what I mean!

So this Penfield thing functions as a kind of metaphor for the dissociated lack of feeling our girl hero is having as she goes through her parents' divorce. You are now scratching your head, right? Right: Too complicatedly clever for its own good. I don't know. If you pick up this book you see an attractively colored cover and a cute girlish 27 year old that the author identifies as "flirty" and a "tease" who we are supposed to like, but we really never get to know her all that well and we have all these multiple narrators (why?!) (including a narrating pigeon, which could be clever, but….) talking all the time….. So it's not really as adorable as the cover seems to promise!

This book talks too much (like this rambling review!) and explains all the important stuff rather than lets you experience it; it has this combination of complicated intellectualizing about the cortical whatsis and an attempt at goofiness at the same time which didn't quite warm my heart. And then there is the problematic characterization of this bisexual girl as crazy that is a little annoying…our male author seems to say girls are nuts and sort of superficial but gosh they are fun. . . If we had actually just focused more directly and less metaphorically on the serious issues this girl has with her parents' divorce that she refuses to really deal with, well, I personally think that would have made a better book.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,674 reviews2,324 followers
January 11, 2012
Great artwork!
This book perfectly captures the frustration of liking someone, but knowing you'll never be able to get any closer to that person.
I liked the storyline being passed like a hot potato among different narrators. Who knew pigeons had such a grasp of the human psyche!
The ending was unsatisfying...perhaps Part Two is in the works?
Profile Image for Seth T..
Author 3 books857 followers
January 13, 2012
Gingerbread Girl by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

I love a good, challenging novel (or graphic novel) as much as the next guy. Maybe even more. I've spent my fair share plumbing the depths of Kafka on the Shore, The Unconsoled, Savage Detectives, and Duncan the Wonder Dog. Those books are treasured to me and I'll always remember to think of them fondly. There's a certain invigouration that occurs when one puzzles through a tough work and comes out the other end with something that resembles a solution—or even just a partial solution. There is life to be found in thoughtful consideration of things that are quite beyond our ken. But sometimes we just want to play.

Gingerbread Girl is exactly that: play. It's light and uncomplicated. It's rambunctious and pleasant. It's got whimsy and verve and spark and a whole bucketload of other lighthearted descriptive nouns. It zips about and won't leave you exhausted from thinking too hard. It's like a night out dancing: sure there's going to be some interpersonal drama but—hot damn!—there's going to be some interpersonal drama!

Gingerbread Girl is about what people—in this case, a particular young woman named Annah—are like. The 110-page graphic novella follows her over the course of a single night's date. Annah has a number of traits that crop up, either endearing her to or alienating her from her companion for the evening as they visit art galleries and rooftops. The book's exploration of these parts of Annah's personality form the story's meat, but it's the manner by which they are explored that makes the book as fun as it is.

Gingerbread Girl by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

Creators Tobin and Coover take a unique tack with the story's narration—one that I hesitate to reveal simply because I found great joy in experiencing it for myself. So I guess if you don't want this one small thing spoiled, just skip to the next paragraph. From the start there's a lot of fourth-wall–breaking, with Annah busting in to tell us exactly why the date she arranged for the night's engagement is going to be such a mystery. But Annah is not our narrator—at least not our only narrator. Over the course of the book, Annah's evening is excerpted to us by friends, associates, strangers, and even passing animals. Each has a unique insight into either the current situation or into Annah's own history and psychological make-up. It's an inventive device and I found it added immeasurably to the flavour of the book.

The book's title comes from a little story involving Annah's cortical homunculus. The homunculus is a visual representation of the sensory inputs as they are located in the brain. It's a bit complicated, but the short of it is that there is a sort of geographical map of the body* laid across the topography of the brain. And Annah says that hers was skimmed off by her mad scientist father when she was a child. Annah calls this slice of herself, the Gingerbread Girl (Ginger for short). That cross-section of cortical homunculus was then grown into a fully functional girl through the magic of science. Or the magic of magic? Or maybe... luck? Whichever the case, Annah has a twin holding access to the depth of her sense perception and that twin has gone missing. And that sad fact is making it hard for Annah to connect with people in any meaningful way.

Or is it? Yes, Annah is a tease and suffers from certain debilitations that threaten to kneecap her relationships turn after turn. But is the problem really something as sci-fi as a rogue homunculus or is the problem more in the realm of traditional psy-fi?** That's the central question that Gingerbread Girl explores throughout its twisting travelogue of Annah's life. If we were to judge truth on the basis of Life of Pi's "better story" criterion, then Annah's account of her missing sister Ginger would absolutely be the truth. Even if she's fabricating, Annah's managed to craft a version of reality that's much more enticing than any more rational explanation for The Way She Is. Still, her friends aren't sold and it's through their skepticism that we're able piece together our version of the truth.

Gingerbread Girl by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

All that sounds pretty thought-provoking and heady but Tobin and Coover take the edge off right quick by infusing their work with a tangible, earthy sense of humour. Gingerbread Girl is funny and warm-hearted. It's a little bit romantic but a lot bit just plain human. It's an enjoyable little book and one of the better releases of the year.

* So really, that's probably better termed a somagraphical map. But let's not let that get between our friendship.

** That was awful, wasn't it? You can tell me. I won't hold it against you for long.

[Review courtesy of Good Ok Bad]
Profile Image for Clare Graf-Mitchell.
25 reviews2 followers
February 4, 2014
I reeeeeeally don't know how I feel about this book.

More accurately, I feel like I should have liked this book - quirky queer girls, vague sci-fi medicine plots - but in reality it made me feel super uncomfortable. I'm not usually a person who gets bothered about use of the word "crazy" but the sheer number of times it appears in this book is overwhelming. The more I read the more I felt like the book was shrugging at me & saying "chicks be cray cray". The fetishisation of natural African hair also felt pretty gross, the actions of the bisexual main character fed in to every single "flighty, cruel bisexual" trope & the shifting narration gave a very voyeuristic feel to the parts of the story which dealt with the same-sex female couple. I was not surprised to get to the end & find out it had been written by a man.

I guess I do know how I feel about the book - I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't recommend it & I think it has some very problematic elements. But I also didn't UNDERSTAND it, so I'm worried that I'm missing something that explains everything & makes it all ok. I will give it this - the art is very cute!
Profile Image for Cassandra.
92 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2013
I'm giving this one star because the artwork is good. Otherwise, the story is terrible. It follows a manic-pixie dream girl who is bi-sexual. However, it depicts every bad stereotype about people who are bi-sexual and women in particular: undecided/confused about their sexuality, attention seekers, teases, and, overall, crazy. The protagonist is obsessed with the afro of a woman of color. Not the woman, just her afro. I found it hard to care about her or her story.

This could have been a really interesting story about a woman dealing with her parents' divorce in her current relationships, but fails miserably.
Profile Image for Jessica-Robyn.
564 reviews40 followers
July 11, 2014
Gingerbread Girl is a graphic novel whose story is both interesting and uninteresting. Whose main character is both lovable, yet frustrating.

Over the chorus of a single night we are introduced to a plethora of characters each taking their turn to narrate the story of Annah Billips and her "sister" Ginger. With each hand-off, from character to character, we're given more bread-crumbs of what is really going on inside of Annah's brain. As outside observers we're asked to question Annah's sanity and to decide for ourselves what Ginger really is and why she is.

The plot is twisty-turvy nature was entertaining and had me along for the ride as my opinions reshaped themselves with each new narrator.

The writing worked surprisingly well with the art and what pulls it all together is this over arcing tone of mystery. Each character knew when to enter, when to leave, and gives just enough information to keep things rolling without giving anything substantial away. It is artful the way the author manages to never show bias towards one conclusion or another. Although, on the negative side, the writing did have a tendency to be a bit long winded for a single panel and should have been more spread out.

Also, the decision of how the books conclusions is something I have mixed feelings about. With every turn the questions of Annah's story are propositioned and new facts are gained, till the final turn when were just left.

The book didn't come to any sort of fulfilling ending, no answers or resolution to be seen, and I both liked/disliked this choice.

I enjoyed the fact that the book sticks to its overall story and doesn't compromise the readers own opinions by giving one set ending or answer. But I didn't enjoy it because I like conclusions. I wish this could have ended at a point the felt like an ending and not a "..."

If it were to turn out that there was a sequel in the works for Gingerbread Girl I would most definitely read it. However, with the tone of the story a continuation is doubtful.

The art was pretty great, but nothing that made me stop and "WOW". But what I did find really impressive about it was how smoothly the art handled the transitions from setting to setting and character to character. Each motion flowed well with the writing and was a major factor in my enjoyment of the multiple narrators.

However overall, my biggest problem with the book was a pretty major. I just didn't find Annah as sympathetic as the story seemed to want me to. I couldn't help but view her as a user, the way she treats other people was impossible for me to get past. The book throws around the word "tease" quite a bit, but I just saw her as exploitative. Because of this, I sometimes found myself at odds with how I was suppose to perceive her. With the way the other characters behaved I felt like I should have been finding it as charming as they did, which in the end effected my experience.

Overall, this was an interesting book with a compelling story but lacked in terms of likeability, leaving me with mixed emotions.
Profile Image for Carra.
168 reviews34 followers
January 23, 2016
Weirdly wonderful and intriguing. I took Annah to my heart, and would like to learn more about her (if that is possible) and what happens to her.
Profile Image for Kiarra.
121 reviews4 followers
October 17, 2022
I read this whole book thinking it was written by Colleen Hoover.
47 reviews
July 31, 2017
Umm...did white girl seriously just touch her hair?... and fetishize her afro?... well... set in Portland so not surprised...
Profile Image for Online Eccentric Librarian.
2,861 reviews5 followers
July 24, 2014

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The whole time reading The Gingerbread Girl, I couldn't help but be frustrated. It felt so much like a book written by a guy as a flippant, "girls are crayzee but we love 'em anyway" ode to women. As such, it takes all kinds of generalizations about female nature, ramps them up to 200%, then gives us all kinds of winks and nods that even the girls themselves know they are crazy. So we have a cute, bisexual, frequently undressed, nutcase quirky pixie going through life spouting overbroad bon mots that miss more than hit their mark.

There is a strong 1960s underground theme here - It's barefoot in the Park all over again, but this time with no guys and more afros. The conceit of the story is that our protagonists believes a part of herself was ablated from her personality - a gingerbread girl - so she doesn't feel complete. That is supposed to explain her flighty nature but it just comes off as being really odd. Then for the rest of the book we get nods to breaking the fourth wall and a host of characters, from pigeon to psychiatrist, observing just how quirky the main character truly is.

I think guys may like the idea of Annah at some fundamental level and so might enjoy this treatise of self obsession. But for the female audience, it is an eye rolling yawner - a bafflingly needless but fortunately short, obsessive look at a self obsessed 'pixie girl.'
8 reviews
November 14, 2012
This mostly comes down to a matter of taste. I can't cite any objective reasons for not liking this book. I thought the drawings themselves were pretty beautiful, and the line quality is just incredible, but it didn't fit the story, in my opinion. It's also not the kind of style I want to look at for the duration of something as long as Gingerbread girl. It's a better fit for shorter strips and lighter subject matter, not a character sketch of a girl with deep emotional scars and psychological issues. The cover is pretty offensive, and somehow made the style and limited color palette that much harder to stomach. Part of me would have liked this to be even longer, to get more about Annah's childhood, specific anecdotes that weren't her parents fighting, her father removing her homunculus, or her crying; at the same time, I wasn't invested or interested enough in the story for that to matter too much. Once again, this is all a matter of taste (except for the cover, that's unquestionable fact).

I did like the variety of narrators and how their identities and relationship with Annah and Ginger limited what they could reveal about those characters and the anecdotes they brought up. Chili might have been unrealistically omniscient, but necessarily so. It's not that much of a stretch, though considering a dog and a pigeon also take turns as narrator.

I think this book will appeal to people with very particular tastes, tastes that Paul and Colleen share. Most will probably find it fairly charming, but ultimately somewhat forgettable.
Profile Image for Deborah.
139 reviews6 followers
April 25, 2017
I don't know what I was expecting. Something lighthearted or sweet or funny, I guess. But this book hit me hard. Despite the Penfield Humunculus storyline, it really hit home, so to speak, having grown up under the same circumstances as the lead character: parents always fighting, feeling alone and scared and what the brain does to protect itself or you. My parents did not divorce nor disappear from my life. Who is to say which is better. All I know is I am still fractured and damaged, in therapy, on meds, but learning to face my fears. There was whimsy and a lightheardness, but ultimately it was a gothic graphic novel, with the story too awful to be told by one person, being passed from people in her life to animals to passersby. Is she insane? Who is sane and what does that mean? A very haunting and compelling story.
Profile Image for Emily.
31 reviews3 followers
June 25, 2011
Gingerbread Girl is a graphic novel with a creative premise that, unfortunately doesn't quite get there. Annah, a twentysomething, may or may not have a sister who was created when her father removed a part of Annah's brain (again, something that may or may not have happened). Annah's quest to find Ginger, her sister, seems mismatched with the casual date the story relays. Though Gingerbread Girl's multiple storytellers give the book a fun feel, the story never really connects, and leaves the reader unsatisfied. The highlight of Gingerbread Girl is its art. Coover's drawings are simple, clear, and fit the tone the book tries to set.
Profile Image for Jayaprakash Satyamurthy.
Author 34 books462 followers
July 5, 2013
This was so wonderfully well written and illustrated. A girl named Annah imagines that her father has extracted the Penfield homunculus - actually a conceptual representations of the sensory centres in the brain rather than a separate entity - from her brain and given it life. The resulting girl, 'Ginger' feels all the things the girl cannot. The sisters have lost track of each other and a series of narrators including the girl, a pigeon and many others talk about Annah's quest for Ginger and whether Ginger is real or not. Wonderfully poised between metaphor and fantasy, just a great, great graphic novel by a very talented team.
Author 2 books16 followers
December 30, 2011
Such a wonderful premise, but such a short book! I'd just started to get invested and it was over.

And more to the point - nothing happens. Its a book purely done in exposition, and you get the the end and realise that pretty much an hour has passed in real time and nothing has happened to advance the story at all. An interesting device, but it needed to be done in tandem with some solid action/conflict/happenings.

Also find it an odd choice of artist. The strange story could have done with less of a chirpy, childlike Telgemeier-esque visual.
Profile Image for Jessi.
235 reviews8 followers
March 18, 2012
I have to say a little "meh" on this one. I wanted to like it--the art work is good--but the story left me cold.
753 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2017
I didn't expect to like this. I picked it up because books that are not the standard size appeal to me, and this one had a fun pop-art cover. The blurb on the back seemed a little... cliché, but had promise. I expected a kind of sci-fi mystery, about humanity and emotions and twins and connection.

What I got was a kind of vignette about Annah, an emotionally manipulative and stunted young women who might or might not be crazy, told through the eyes of those who love her and those who barely know her. And I loved it.

The art is standard; no complaints. I liked the black-and-white and gingerbread palate, and the fact that there are no easy answers. Chili's little concluding speech, where she recounts some of Annah's likes and dislikes, and that she's a good kisser (and totally glosses over the fact that she might or might not have a twin who was extracted from her brain when she was a child) and says that that's "All she knows about Annah" is sublime.
Profile Image for Stef.
1,041 reviews3 followers
December 15, 2017
Wow, did I completely despise everyone in this story. I even hated the pigeons for bothering to care about Annah, who--regardless whether or not she's insane (I abandoned this story in disgust a fourth of the way through -- is a piece-of-shit person who treats everyone like garbage, and I have zero compassion for her girlfriend, who seems to find that trait exhilarating and sexy. And being that I hated all the characters so much, I was especially annoyed by all the breaking-of-the-fourth-wall for them to take a moment to tell me what's going on with them; I was like, "Stop talking to me like that, you horrible person, you." Ugh.
Profile Image for StrictlySequential.
2,827 reviews10 followers
August 7, 2019
About a 27 year old teenager who WOULD be bisexual IF she put out. She's the type of chick who relies 100% on being pretty for people to put up with her issues.

The psychological narrative IS fascinating in study BUT constantly frustrating in it's manifestations and hang-ups.

The ART is what got me because I find Coover's females irresistible- I've been waiting to get "Small Favors" for awhile and will probably get the others too.

There were many fun facts scattered throughout that a trivia junkie will enjoy
Profile Image for Mark Bult.
44 reviews3 followers
January 11, 2020
There’s a penchant among graphic novelists toward open-ended stories where the reader is left wondering how things turned out, perhaps filling in the rest with their imagination. Ordinarily this doesn’t bother me (I know people who hate foreign films because of just these types of endings), but this book left just a few too many things open and I would’ve liked a tad less puzzling mystery on the last page. It gets one-half star off for this, despite the fact that I love Tobin’s writing and Coover’s likely my favorite female comic artist.
Profile Image for honeybean.
364 reviews6 followers
November 10, 2018
I like this book in that I bought it in New Orleans and it's about a bisexual girl who is about the same age as me (I'm 26 currently, she is 27). The different angles and perspectives in the book are also interesting. I have a few issues with this book in some of the wordings and themes chosen, and I especially dislike how many times the author uses the word "crazy."
Profile Image for Jus.
43 reviews3 followers
May 19, 2021
I really enjoyed the structure of this story (something like a modern Greek chorus but in a graphic novel). I think a lot of the criticism of the “manic pixie dream girls” fail to recognize that this was published in 2011. Although I am fine with vague endings, something about this rubbed me the wrong way.
Profile Image for Michelle.
771 reviews
April 1, 2019
I loved the art, but the story was pretty aawful. She's flightly to both the guy and the girl. I thought the narrative method of having different people narrate was cute at first but quickly got twee.
2 reviews
May 29, 2019
Occasionally, I wonder whether I like reading graphic novels too much to ever be too critical of one. This book has allayed those concerns.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 101 reviews

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