MGM (or YA?) The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock

(Cynthia Heinrichs is the winner from our FUTUREDAZE anthology draw – yay)

Last week on MG Monday, Barbara Watson discussed and listed several MG books that she thought were on the cusp of YA. As a matter of fact, some of these books are difficult to place on shelves for this very reason.

These are the type of MG books that interest me the most. Books that challenge exceptional readers, have complex characters, address important themes, but steer clear from any sex and graphic violence. Teens who are not into love triangles need great stories, too.

Interestingly, on a panel at FaerieCon this weekend, I heard an author define YA as ages 14+, and this is not the first time I have heard someone in the industry say this (though many will define it as 12+). Since most people define MG 9 to 12 years old, where does that leave the 13 year olds?


The SWEET REVENGE OF CELIA DOOR by Karen Finneyfrock falls into this zone for me. A sweet coming-of-age story that cultivates in a cringe-worthy moment when we are reminded of the emotional pain and cruelty of 9th grade.

From GoodReads:

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.

I have known author Karen Finneyfrock for about 15 years. We met in the Seattle poetry scene (she used to MC the Seattle Poetry Slam and I used to run the Seattle Poetry Festival). Her poetic background is revealed with her lovely language and imagery. Of the protagonist’s nemesis she writes, “That’s Sandy Firestone. And if my heart were a crossbow, every arrow would be pointed at her.” Of the boy she meets, “His blue and yellow sneakers were a foot from me, their fat laces pouting over the shoes’ tongues like bloated earthworms after the rain.”  It’s this language that will make it a great read for older middle graders.

As well, the main character is a poet herself and writes poetry every day.

Call me a planet orbiting a revenge-colored sun
Or a seed growing in the soil of settling a score…

What makes this a more mature read are the subject matter and a bit of swearing. The book claims on the back that it’s for the 12+ reader and I think that’s a good call. Parents should know that there are a few F-bombs dropped, but they don’t seem out of place in the halls of 9th grade (and the character gets into trouble for using the word at school). As well, bullies at the school call Celia a lesbian at least once. She’s not, although one of her friends turns out to be gay. This is only spoken about between the two friends and the book’s one kiss happens “off screen.” Some drinking also occurs “off screen,” but it’s not at all pervasive in the story.

This is a story of outcasts and bullies. I would have loved this book in 6th or 7th grade. I was also a poet as a kid, so there’s that, too. For the mature middle grader, I think would be a fine choice.

For more Middle Grade Monday selections, see Shannon Messenger’s Blog!


  1. Cynthia Heinrichs
    Feb 25, 2013

    I won!?! Yay is right! I can’t wait to read my prize.

  2. Natalie Aguirre
    Feb 27, 2013

    I really like those books that are on the cusp of middle grade and YA. I think there’s a huge range in middle grade from 3rd grade to 12 year olds. I really like the upper middle grade books that can straddle the upper middle graders and lower YA kids.

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Feb 27, 2013

      I find more and more parents coming up to me at conventions for requests for such books. They say, “my 9 year old can read at a 9th grade level, what do I give them to read?”

  3. Kim Aippersbach
    Feb 27, 2013

    This sounds like an interesting story: anger and desire for revenge aren’t the most common subjects of middle-grade fiction–or YA, for that matter. I’d like to read about a character who isn’t “nice.”

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Mar 1, 2013

      Good point, Kim. I’m trying to think of other MG/YA characters who set out for revenge, only to learn some larger lesson for themselves. I like the “not nice” characters, too, as long as they are redeemed in the end. The protagonist in Libba Bray’s “Going Bovine” comes to mind. That kid’s not nice and very angry at the beginning of the story.

      And even though Celia is set on revenge, it’s easy to have sympathy for her since she’s such an outcast at school. We’ve all felt like that.

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