Review: Portraits of Celina by Sue Whiting

It's been awhile since I've picked up a book that falls more in the YA genre, although I can't really decide if I want to categorize this as YA or Middle Grade.

Publication Date: April 1, 2013 (republished on April 1, 2015)

Celina O'Malley was sixteen when she disappeared, almost 40 years ago.

Now, Bayley has moved into Celina's house, wears her clothes, and hears her voice. But what does Celina want? Why is Bayley getting glimpses of Celina's life, forty years ago? And who will suffer in order for Celina to get her revenge?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I seem to be having a lot of trouble connecting to books lately, and that didn't change with this book. Initially, I was really interested in the plot and wanted to know what would happen, but after a few chapters, I just wasn't feeling it anymore.

The plot revolves around a teenage girl, Celina, who mysteriously went missing almost 40 years ago. And now, Bayley, turning 17 soon, has moved into Celina's house and begins to feel a strange pull towards Celina's old life. And there's no doubt that Bayley's family finds it strange that she is wearing a missing girl's clothes, but it's the only thing that brings Bayley peace.

Am I the only one who thinks it's super strange that someone would even look through a missing, presumably dead, person's clothing? Like, does anyone actually do that? Cause it's really weird and pretty twisted to look through someone's stuff like that, then take it out and wear it like it's no big deal. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be okay with someone going through my closet intentionally, after I've gone missing, and wearing my clothes like it's no big deal. Ahem, it's called respect and privacy.

To be very honest, nothing about the plot really interested me after I started the book. I just realized that while it was a YA, it felt more like a Middle Grade book to me. Everything was written in a more simplistic manner, the plot wasn't really intriguing or complex, and the characters seem fairly one-dimensional. Also, the paranormal aspect in the book doesn't really do much to make it more exciting or add to it. It kind of falls flat.

I realized halfway through the book that I don't really know what the characters look like. Yes, they are described, but I can only recall Bayley's hair and legs, Oliver's eyes and build, and Celina's hair. Few of the characters are actually described with enough detail for the reader to fully picture them. I even found that supporting characters had better descriptions than main characters, which is just stupid, because I need to know what the protagonist looks like far more than I need to know what that old person looks like.

Somewhere around the two-thirds mark, the book began to pick up, but sadly, for me, it was a little past the redeeming point for the book. I mean, it got interesting, but it wasn't interesting enough to save the book from a 3 star rating.

The ending was....well, I thought it was too convenient and rather hard to believe. Nothing was really explained in the end and everything just seemed to turn out just fine for Bayley. I didn't feel like enough have been thought out and that the reasons behind Celina's disappearance and why she was talking to Bayley weren't good enough reasons to justify a 354 page book. If there had been some kind of major plot twist, I could see why the author dragged the book out, but everything could easily have been summarized in less than 250 pages. There were a lot of scenes that weren't entirely necessary and things that could have been shortened.

The overall idea for the plot is decent enough, but you can't really say that it's too original or different from other YA books out there. It's really just not that special to me.

I don't like Bayley. Everything about her rubs me the wrong way, and I didn't like reading from her perspective. I felt that Celina, though mostly portrayed as the antagonist, was more interesting to read about and was actually a nicer person. Bayley just seemed to have a problem with figuring out what she wanted, expressing herself, coming to terms with her feelings and emotions, and finding information about Celina's disappearance. All the information she got was from another character, who knew Celina as a teenager. And the most annoying thing about Bayley, for me, was that she acted like wearing a missing girl's clothes was no big deal because "they fit me." Seriously? That makes it okay to go through a missing girl's belongings and wear them? Where is the sense of privacy, respect, and shame? Ugh

3 stars. I wouldn't really recommend this, but if you think the premise sounds interesting, by all means, go ahead. I would personally say not to expect too much from the book, but that's just me.

Thank you to NetGalley for hosting this on your site. Thank you also to Walker Books Australia for your initial publishing of this book, but also to Capstone Young Readers for republishing this and allowing me to read and review this before its republication.

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