On the first day of ninth grade, Celia walks through the doors of her Hershey, Pennsylvania high school, finds her new locker, and duct-tapes a sign to the front of it:
CELIA, THE DARK
She turned Dark the day she turned fourteen. Being Dark means that she's given up. She's accepted the fact that she has no friends, that no one likes her, that people push her around.
Now, though, she pushes back. And she's not in school to learn: she's there to get revenge.
Things I loved about The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door:
1. It's not about a how a romance changes her life: it's about how a friendship changes her life.
2. Despite dealing with big issues—bullying and the despair that can result from it, the difficulty and confusion of falling in love with one's best friend, familial upheaval, homophobia—it never reads as issue-y or didactic.
3. Celia is smart, creative, curious, sensitive, loves reading, and loves words, but she doesn't talk like someone reading a Diablo Cody script. When she mouths off to one of the jerks at school, she keeps it simple ("You're stupid and mean, and you suck at basketball"; "Keep marching, hate parade"), and in so doing, the moment isn't about the words she chooses, but about the fact that she chooses to to speak up. When she speaks up in defense of others, it comes off as realistic and as real-world possible, rather than as something you'd see in a movie: and that makes it all the more inspiring.
4. Her poetry? Is really good. Her response to Gwendolyn Brooks' We Real Cool is AWESOME, and it made me furious that her English teacher didn't acknowledge it. Also, her love of poetry affects her prose style (she's especially prone to very visual metaphors), which makes it feel like an actual part of who she is, rather than just a thing she does.
5. She is clearly a kindred spirit: "It's not like I'm going to go get a crush on some boy in Hershey High when I've got Howl from Howl's Moving Castle at home."
6. Lessons are learned, change happens, growth is achieved, but again, not in a way that suggests swelling music or soft focus. It stays in the realm of reality. There was one coincidence that Raised My Eyebrows, but it wasn't so far out of the realm of possibility that I was unable to roll with it.
7. Although I liked Celia and Drake from minute one, I didn't realize how MUCH I'd grown to care about them until I got all choked up during the last few chapters. And, except for the Mean Girls (who have only one setting: EVIL), the secondary characters—especially Celia's mother and Clock—are three-dimensional and believable. I'd totally love to read a companion book about Clock.
Things I didn't like about The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door:
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.