Feeling Sorry for Celia
Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Clarry is not having a good first week of school. She has just learned that her dad, a pompous airline pilot, is moving back to Sydney after years of living in Canada. That wouldn't be so terrible, except he has moved to a really posh neighborhood and wants to make up for lost time by taking her out to trendy restaurants and acting like a boor. Her mother, a high powered advertising executive, is so busy rushing from meeting to meeting that she only has time to communicate via Post-it notes left around their kitchen. Well, that and sending Elizabeth faxes, trying to wring ideas for cat food campaigns out of her. The new English teacher at Elizabeth's school, aptly named Mr. Botherit, has come up with a particularly deadly assignment; he has begun a pen-pal program between her class and a neighboring "tough" high school. And then there is Celia Buckley, as in FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA.
Elizabeth and Celia have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They have grown up together from mud pies and make believe tree houses to the world of crushes and teen angst. Elizabeth is the levelheaded, strong and independent one. She has the discipline to run everyday and cooks pretty much every meal for herself and her mother. Celia is the dreamer, the enchanting fairy-like one who is always scheming. Both girls have been nurtured by Celia's delightfully dippy hippie mum who never discourages her flighty daughter. At the start of the novel, Celia has run away, joined a circus and is training to be tightrope walker. No, really. Elizabeth is left alone, wondering if she will ever see her best friend again, if she will make the track team, if she will ever get a boyfriend and be a "real" teenager.
This thoroughly charming book isn't a novel in the strictest sense of the word. Instead, FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA is a series of letters, notes, and postcards. Many of these come from the imaginary organizations that plague Elizabeth's thoughts. These bizarre but hilariously right-on missives come from the likes of The Cold Hard Truth Society and The Association of Teenagers and are expressions of her inner worries and fears.
The letters Elizabeth receives from Christina are very different. The girl from the wrong side of the tracks school that was picked to be Elizabeth's pen-pal, Christina is spunky, no nonsense and yet utterly compassionate and giving, the ideal best friend. Although they are both wary of each other at first, especially since Elizabeth attends private school, the girls soon bond. They share stories of their crazy families, adventures with dating, and musings on their generally mixed up lives. They also send each other letters brimming with encouragement and the occasional stickers or Smarties (Australian M&Ms). With Christina's gentle guidance, Elizabeth begins to come to terms with Celia and the changes that are occurring in their friendship. Pretty good for two people who spend almost the entirety of the book never once meeting.
Author Jaclyn Moriarty has a deft hand with characters; Christina, Elizabeth, and Celia, though all quite different, are each authentic, touching sketches of teenage girls. FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA has it all: anonymous love notes, co-ed slumber parties, a hottie track star named Saxon, liturgical dancing (whatever that may be), a James Bond inspired rescue plot. Although the denouement may seem a bit convoluted, readers who finish the book will be delighted by this bittersweet and lovely epistolary tale.
Reviewed by Lucy Burns on March 8, 2001
Feeling Sorry for Celia
- Publication Date: March 8, 2001
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press
- ISBN-10: 0312269234
- ISBN-13: 9780312269234