Book Review #8: The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It has been a long time since I’ve read a YA novel where the character was just starting high school, and I have to admit. I’ve forgotten how fantastic stories like that can be when they’re done well. “The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door” was most definitely done well.

Much like “Speak,” the protagonist makes reference to a traumatic event the year before, and I was really impressed with the way the reader was given just enough information to stay interested until the big reveal. Part of this was due to Celia herself.

I loved her to pieces–in part because I was once the nerdy freshman literature geek who wrote poetry in a journal she kept under lock and key–but also because of her personality. The bullying she was subjected to didn’t prevent her from standing up for herself or snarking off some witty response to a less clever insult.

Her growing friendship with Drake–and another character I won’t mention for fear of spoilers–really made the story. I loved that the two of them could be ‘best friends’ and that the question of romance between them was eradicated pretty early on. (The ‘best friends’ proposal scene in the mall was fantastic, by the way.)

I can be very mixed on including original poetry or song lyrics in a novel. For me, that’s something that only works if they’re done well and unique to the character’s voice–both very subjective things. From the poetry included, it was very easy to see that the author was initially a poet, and a good one. I loved reading the snippets from Celia’s journal.

One of the strongest things about this novel for me were the bullying scenes. It felt much more authentic to me that Finneyfrock didn’t fall victim to too many tropes in writing it. We see it implied that Sandy is jealous of Celia’s attention from their English teacher in 8th grade, but there’s no excuse made for her behavior or how horrible it is. I’m fully aware that motivation is a much bigger deal in fiction than it is in reality, but every now and again I like the reminder that some people are just jerks for stupid reasons.

Overall, I’m very glad I picked up this story. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other books from this author–and potentially checking out her poetry.

View all my other reviews


Book Review #7: Lovely, Dark and Deep

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I’ve been putting off this review for far longer than I meant to, and there are a couple of reasons why. Before I picked up “Lovely, Dark and Deep” from the library, I’d seen an author whose work I love give this novel a glowing recommendation. A quick glance at the summary showed me that it might very well be something that I’d be interested. When I found it at the library a few days later, I dove right in.

Don’t get me wrong–there are a lot of things to like about this novel. The cast of characters is rich and diverse, and I found myself fascinated by the majority of them. The setting was described beautifully and had me dying to return to Maine–a place I’ve only been during the summer.

For the first 100 pages or so, I drew a great deal of parallels between “Lovely, Dark and Deep” and “Speak.” Both had female protagonists who were nearly mute, suffering through the aftermath of traumatic events in locales that were known, but initially foreign to them. That being said, I stopped any and all comparisons right around the 200 page mark.

Without spoiling anything for future readers, this novel contained a trope that I have seen FAR too much of in YA novels, and that I wish would die a tragic, horrible death. Allow me to elaborate. The MC–usually a girl, but not always–is accused of something by another character–usually a boy, but not always. The accusation can be based on what the MC feels to be true, or not at all. That’s not what drives me crazy. What drives me crazy is when the MC says nothing to their own defense, and simply lets their accuser go on thinking something about them that is only slightly true, or not at all true.

SERIOUSLY? The second I finished the scene I’m indirectly referring to, I slammed the book closed and shoved it across the table. Don’t get me wrong; I did finish the novel, but I knew if I read any more that day I would’ve driven myself nuts.

I HATE seeing this in characters. Here’s why. It seems to be especially common in teenaged girls, at least in fiction. I have known a crap-load of teenaged girls. I have BEEN a teenaged girl, probably a lot more recently than the majority of authors who put this in their books. I have known a lot of quiet girls with avoidance tendencies, and I have known a lot of suffering girls with avoidance tendencies. Of the people I’ve known well, not a one of them would let something like that go.

I’m not saying that everyone would turn a false accusation into an argument, but I can’t think of a single female friend I’ve had who would let anyone accuse them of something they didn’t do and JUST NOT RESPOND. Quite frankly, I find this type of thing offensive. I’ve been one of those girls quietly suffering through something they don’t like or understand. It DID NOT remove my ability to stand up for myself in a non-threatening setting to non-threatening people.

I’m sure there are people out there who will think I’m overreacting. That’s their opinion. But I’m not overreacting when I say that this is one of a precious few tropes that can absolutely ruin an otherwise decent story for me.

Will I give a future novel of McNamara’s a chance? Absolutely. Will I hope that the characterization is better handled? Ditto.

View all my other reviews