Sunday, September 7, 2008
Celine by Brock Cole
"'Show a little maturity,' he said, which I've doped out to mean: Pass all your courses, avoid detection in all crimes and misdemeanors, don't get pregnant."
If I'm having a bad day you can usually find me curled up in my bed with one of my favorite YA fiction books. When I was registering for this semester's English classes I was thrilled to find that a class on teaching adolescent literature was being offered and signed up for it before I even read the class descriptions for anything else.
The first book that we've been assigned is Celine, a complete and total disappointment. With all of the quality novels there are out there today for youths I was surprised that my professor started out the semester with something so dull and lack luster. The writing is passable but the plot is so flat that there was nothing to redeem the novel. You could see the small plot twist coming from the second chapter and the one small bit that showed the promise of something interesting miraculously creeping into the book vanished as soon as it appeared. In this class we're suppose to examine the significance of the books we read and decide whether or not we would include them in our curriculum. I can see why an English teacher might use Celine in a freshman classroom because it doesn't have any real controversy and would be safer than something like Catcher In the Rye while still addressing all of the important topics like alienation and coming of age, but I would much rather have a few parents call and complain than bore the students I'm trying to reach to tears.
The plot is basically this: Celine has been moved around from family member to family member because the adults in her life are too self centered to raise a teenage girl. When we find our young narrator her professor father is off teaching in Europe and she's living with her stepmother, who is only six years older than her and completely indifferent. Celine turns to excessive amounts of television for comfort and lives vicariously through the characters on her screen because she has no one to do much substantial interacting with. Outside of the home, Celine fits into the young, tortured artist stereotype. She's talented but her peers use her instead of befriend her and once she realizes she's being socially shat on she sulks home to make paintings that magnify her flaws so that she can understand just what it is that's wrong with her, one being called Celine Beast. The majority of the novel is centered around her friendship with a young latch key kid named Jake that lives in her apartment complex and depends on her to fill the parental role left void by his negligent parents who are fighting their way through a messy separation. Celine's parents keep pressing the idea that Celine needs to work on becoming more mature on her throughout the novel and through her relationship with Jake she stumbles into the maturity they don't think she's capable of when they're not watching. The messiest the novel gets is where Celine is having strange fantasies about a relationship with Jake's father and she finds out that the reason Jake's parents are getting divorced is that his father is having an affair with the art teacher Celine idolizes.
Also, the cover makes it look like the 80s vomited all over it.