Friday, March 22, 2013
Me on The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door
Author: Karen Finneyfrock
Release Date: February 21, 2013
Publisher: Viking (Penguin imprint)
Celia Door enters her freshman year of high school with giant boots, dark eyeliner, and a thirst for revenge against Sandy Firestone, the girl who did something unspeakable to Celia in eighth grade. But then Celia meets Drake, the cool new kid from New York City who entrusts her with his deepest, darkest secret, who makes her look at things a different way. When Celia's quest for justice threatens her relationship with Drake, she's forced to decide which is sweeter: the revenge she craves or the friendship she never knew she needed.
The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door is a clever, honest, and insightful look at one girl's entrance into high school and all it entails, including a reunion with the girls from middle school who made eighth grade painful. Celia is an interesting sort of character, funny and clever but sad and confused, and her experience will resonate with anyone who'd ever felt alone and bullied by their peers.
One thing that stands out the most in this book is Celia's voice. She's creative, she's wise, she's knowledgeable after reading book after book from the public library. She has her own way of seeing the world around her, seeing her parents' marriage stagnate and turn into something else, seeing Drake struggle with the secret that only she knows, seeing Sandy Firestone and waiting for the day she'll get her revenge. There's a mention of Celia studying the high school's yearbook so she could prepare for her freshman year, but there is no studying. It's a jump into the deep end for everyone, we just have to hope we can tread water or that there are people nearby willing to help keep us afloat.
Celia's poems are a coping mechanism, a way for her to express what she's feeling when she's keeping it all inside. She doesn't tell either of her parents, her forgetful mother or absent father, how she feels, she doesn't tell Drake the truth behind how she feels, and so it's all building up inside her, escaping in little bursts of poems that no one is ever meant to see.
At fourteen, Celia is a young narrator for a young adult novel, but the message of this book is no less powerful or important. She's been bullied, she's become Dark, but is getting her revenge on Sandy Firestone worth it? Is revenge ever worth it? With revenge, Celia wants Sandy to feel exactly how she felt, she wants her to feel the pain and the shame that she was put through, but she never considers the end. Those who plan revenge plots rarely consider the aftermath, the whispers, the additional pain that could surface. If Celia goes through with her revenge, she might lose the only friend she has.
Those early years of high school, the first year or two, they're the start of you discovering what you want to be, who you're going to be. You don't want those times to be sad, to be painful, to weight you down until you're about to buckle under the pressure. It's not about becoming who other people want you to be, it's about figuring out who you want to be. Be the best you you can be, hang out with who you want to hang out with. Maybe then high school will be pretty sweet.
(I acquired an advance copy at ALA Midwinter.)