The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock – Advance Review

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door

Book Jacket:

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.


This book does indeed have a fantastic voice – but all in all the story was a bit anticlimactic.

Now to be fair, it doesn’t help that I’m a fan of Revenge (the ABC show), which has given me pretty high standards when it comes to revenge scheming in general. But given the jacket copy of this book, I was expecting some kind of serious revenge ploy, and as a result I wanted the story to build to a huge decision for Celia, where she had to make a choice between the little angel and little devil sitting on her shoulders, where she had to face what she’d become if she went through with it and decide who she wanted to be. But sadly, that just never happened. The revenge ploy was more of a notion than an actuality, and despite Celia’s burning desire to get said revenge, the actions she took were rather unimpressive and frankly not all that dire. All around I have to say the revenge plot of this book really was the weakest link of the story. Celia may spend a fair amount of time loathing a certain pair of girls, but her burning desire to make them pay for what they’ve done never negatively impacts her life in a major way – and while the girls just keep on raining hits down on Celia, she never really, truly hits back at them on their level. And while I realize on some level that’s the point of this story – that Celia IS better than that, and that justice and revenge are not the same – all in all it did make the big, ballyhooed revenge scheme rather lackadaisical. So no, Celia is definitely no Emily Thorne.

But revenging aside, what this story does have is an absolutely brilliant character in Celia Door. Going in I kind of braced myself for the typical angry-Goth or Emo-poet archetypes, but Celia defies such categorization. Oh, I just loved her – her humor, her pain, her defenses, her vulnerability, her defiance – she is a complete, pitch-perfect teen, and I was rooting for her every step of the way. And Celia definitely has no lack of things to overcome, between the bullying, her parents’ divorce, social leprosy, and the loss of her best friend, all of which come wrapped up in the particular hell that is starting Freshman year. But the way Celia faces it all, and pulls herself up, and gradually dares to trust in someone again – it’s just wonderful to read. Without question, Celia is a character more than worthy of a book.

And of course, we can’t talk about Celia without bringing up her poetry. To be honest, I was fairly suspicious of the poetry angle going in – I thought it could quickly become self-indulgent, and, well, I’ve read books where the poetry was ever present and ever terrible – but man oh man was this poetry GOOD. Finneyrock is known in the poetry world, for her books and spoken-word, and she brought a level of word-smith bad-assery that you don’t usually find in YA-embedded poetry. This poetry just works, not only in and of itself, but also as a way to let us in, to sneak us behind Celia’s defensive wall so we can fully understand how much of a life-line this form of self-expression is to her. And I loved everything about it, not least of which the way Finneyrock uses poetry as a key plot point later on. Plus it all serves brilliantly as a non-preachy testimonial to the power of the arts.

In the end, Celia is just a wonderful character. She may not have been given as much ground to cover as I’d have liked, plot-wise, but her voice is a genius blend of strength and hurt, and you can’t help but love her. This is a girl definitely worth getting to know.

Byrt Grade: B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Publishers Weekly says:

In her YA debut, Finneyfrock gives Celia a drily funny voice that keeps the narrative zipping along

Kirkus Reviews says:

Finneyfrock captures perfectly is the powerlessness of being a teen….Illuminated with flashes of humor, Celia’s narration is expressive, and her poems, which are sprinkled throughout the novel, elucidate her emotional state with grace and specificity.