Book #50

Ginger and Me by Elissa Soave


Wendy is nineteen and living alone. All she wants is to drive the 255 bus around Uddingston with her regulars on board, remember to buy milk when it runs out and to just be ok. After her mum passed away, there’s no one to remind Wendy to eat, what to do each day and most importantly to love herself. Every week Wendy proudly shows her social worker Saanvi the progress she’s made, like the coasters she bought to spruce up the place, even if she does forget to offer her a cup of tea.

But Wendy is ready to put herself out there and really live. She joins a writer’s group to share stories she writes including the one about a bullied schoolboy who goes to Mars. The other writers are total amateurs, unlike Diane Weston – a famous local author who likes and sometimes even comments on Wendy’s tweets.

Everything changes on a rainy day 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 her life would be simpler if she hadn’t met Ginger. And that’s before she realises just how much of a mess Ginger is about to get them in.

Oh, Wendy. Oh, Ginger. Oh, Elissa! The three of you have broken my heart.

I was delighted to meet Wendy. Nineteen, neurodiverse, and still processing her grief following her mother’s death, she is cast adrift in the world with no real friends and no real hope. She copes, she coasts, but she’s missing some love and belonging. Enter Ginger, vulnerable to equal yet differing degrees, happy to find a friend in Wendy, and eager to pull her into her own problematic world.

The friendship feels precarious throughout - both of these girls are desperate for a friend and are drawn together by that acute and painful feeling of abandonment. It’s difficult to interpret their reliance on each other as anything other than a lack of options. Neither of them can quite understand the other and the separate world they live in; both minutely focused on their own feelings and obstacles.

Whilst we explore this dynamic, and begin to understand our two fast friends, Wendy becomes interested in creative writing, and soon finds a local author whose work she enjoys reading. Her strong feelings for the author soon quicken into dark behaviours which Wendy believes are perfectly acceptable when they’re coming from a place of love.

There’s so much to be considered and explored here - Soave telling the story through Wendy’s eyes is an important one; to understand not all of us recognise social norms, or can pick up on nuance, to live a while in the world of the neurodiverse, is something many of us can benefit from.

Although a sad and relatively dark story, there is humour peppered around, and a lot of joy. An excellent debut from Soave, something raw and real.