By Karen Finneyfrock
Published on February 21st 2013
Published by Viking Children's
Published by Viking Children's
Here's another one to file away under the "if I were a teenager, I would have enjoyed this way more" label. As an adult, I was too annoyed at how terrible these teenagers are to each other to really lose myself in the book, but as a teenager, I probably would have identified in a big way with Celia.That’s the day the trouble started.
The trouble that nearly ruined my life.
The trouble that turned me Dark.
The trouble that begs me for revenge.
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 last year.
But then Celia meets Drake, the cool new kid from New York City who entrusts her with his deepest, darkest secret. When Celia’s quest for justice threatens her relationship with Drake, she’s forced to decide which is sweeter: revenge or friendship.
This debut novel from Karen Finneyfrock establishes her as a bright, bold, razor-sharp new voice for teens.
Celia is beginning ninth grade at Hershey High, and she's decided this year to embrace her outcast nature. She comes across as kind of punk/goth-y, always wearing thrift-shop clothes, big hoodies, dark makeup, boots, etc, and has taken to calling herself Celia the Dark. She has no friends at school and has accepted this, at least outwardly. Throughout the book, she refers to an event that happened the year before which made her turn "Dark", though we don't learn what exactly this event was until close to the end.
The book tells the story of Celia's budding friendship with Drake, a new student from New York, which winds up intersecting with the unpleasant bullying Celia experiences at school. Throughout, we are treated to snippets of Celia's poetry, which she writes in a notebook that she keeps on her at all times. And this is where I felt that Celia was near and dear to my heart -- I had my own little poetry notebook that I toted around through middle- and high-school, full of emo or sickly sweet or teenager-ly pretentious poetry about the boy I liked who didn't like me, or why people were mean, or why my life was so hard. The poetry's a much bigger part of Celia's life than it ever was in mine, but it felt familiar to me, this needing to get words out without having anyone real to say them to. I really appreciated that part of the story, even if as an adult I found it all to be a little bit overwrought.
Another hilarious story-within-a-story aspect of this book is a self-help book that Drake finds and becomes completely enraptured with. Drake and Celia read it together, and "passages" are excerpted in the novel for us. It's a perfect parody of actual real self-help books and I could easily see why someone like Drake, who is kind of adrift with little adult support in his life, would start trying to adhere to this book's suggestions 100%.
Like many contemporary YA books, I felt like the ending wrapped up a little too neatly to be totally realistic. People face consequences for their actions, sure, but it felt too easy. Hearing all too many stories about real-world bullying and schools' failure to adequately deal with it makes the way things shake out here a little hard to believe. But not every book needs to be a downer, especially contemporaries which seem to fall into the "it gets better" type of story, so I guess it works.
This book deals with many serious contemporary topics, including bullying, fighting, divorce, suicide, and coming out to friends and family. It's a very easy to read story and would probably be most enjoyed or identified with by readers around the same age as Celia (eighth to tenth grade students). I'd recommend reading along or previewing before giving it to a child, though, because of the themes.