Feeling Sorry for Celia
by Jaclyn Moriarty
St. Martin's Press, 2001

Feeling Sorry for Celia is a young adult general fiction novel, set in an private school in Australia. It is the first book in the loosely connected Ashbury/Brookfield series.

Elizabeth Clarry has a pretty normal life. She lives with her mom, has occasional awkward visits with her dad, runs, and attends high school. She does have two noteworthy quirks that form the central conceit of the book: one, she writes herself, and sometimes others, lots of funny little notes; and two, her friend, Celia, is crazy.

The entire novel is written only in notes back and forth between Elizabeth, her mom, and her penpal, with no supporting narrative. This works surprisingly well, particularly since all the people involved have a good sense of humor and a predisposition towards writing out snippets of conversation. It does sometimes lead to a non-linear narrative with some sudden gaps, but that is part of the charm.

Celia herself makes comparatively few appearances in the book, although large portions of the story revolve around her. Celia has some fairly serious but non-specific mental issues, which primarily exhibit themselves through running away from home. Celia's mom is a bit out-there herself, and she doesn't let her daughter's disappearances bother her too much -- which leaves Elizabeth and her mom to do the lion's share of the worrying. Now Celia has disappeared yet again, and Elizabeth is starting to get a bit sick of the whole thing (not that she'd ever admit it to herself).

While there is an ongoing storyline following Celia and her ability to drag people into her erratic orbit, this is just as much a story about making new friends, dealing with estranged fathers who may have a deep dark secret, and dating. There is no particularly central plot, and the value of the story rests primarily in the characters being charming (or at least interesting) while life throws odd problems their way. This is a fun general fiction book for teens of perhaps 15 and up; while it is probably geared towards teenage girls, it is good fun for anyone.

The Ashbury/Brookfield series is fairly disjointed, and Elizabeth and Celia are minor characters in the later books (although, at times, critical to the plot). The books can be read in any order, but the next one is officially The Year of Secret Assignments.

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