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.