Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Celia on the Run

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

I don’t read much YA fiction but I do love romances involving odd couples, and I also love books about road trips, so I thought I would give this one a try.

Nick is staying at a motel with his parents while he attends his grandmother’s funeral when he meets the enigmatic Celia. She is hitchhiking across the country to see her father and she is covertly using the facilities at the motel while she sleeps rough. Nick is drawn to her immediately, and he can’t stop watching her or thinking about her. When she returns his interest and has sex with him, he can’t believe his luck. Up to this point Nick has led a very sheltered and conventional life, and part of him yearns to break free and do something crazy for a change. Celia is everything Nick is not. She is wild, unpredictable and completely shameless. Nick falls for her hard and fast, and in the grip of passion, he steals his parent’s car so he can drive her to New Jersey.

A large part of the book is taken up with their time on the road as they get to know one another and their relationship deepens. While Nick is sure of his feelings from the start, Celia is amused by his blind adoration and she nicknames him ‘puppy’ and ‘newbie’. Nick has a list of crazy things he would like to do, and together they cross off many of them, having a great time in the process. They take unplanned detours, see some sights and meet a range of interesting and sometimes comical people. The book seems light-hearted at first as Nick and Celia enjoy themselves on their adventure and begin to open up to each other, but there is always a darkness lurking beneath the surface.

Although they think it's amusing, I found many of the things they did to steal money quite mean-spirited and I particularly didn’t appreciate the way they mocked some of the people they stole from. I was never really quite sure whether the author wanted us to judge them for their behaviour or share their fun, which is a good thing because it forces you to examine your own values. I found Celia hard to like at first, but she does redeem herself eventually in an act of selflessness that shows a lot about her. She also became a much more sympathetic character as more of her past was revealed, although there was always a sense she was hiding something and I didn’t know whether to trust her.

Nick also finds it hard to trust her, especially when it comes to other men, and there is one argument after she’s worked at a strip club to make money for gas that descends into violence. This, however, is nothing compared to the extreme violence that lies ahead. The book takes a very dark and unexpected turn that truly shocked me. Without giving too much away, I just want to say that I was disappointed that the perpetrators of this violence largely get away with it (except one who is shot through the hand), and I had to question what kind of message this is sending when they were simply let off to go and do it again. I also like to dig below the surface when I’m reading and I wondered if Celia was punished symbolically for being a “bad girl”.

This was really the only thing about the book I had issues with. Overall it is well written and the characters are defined and believable. The tension builds slowly, and the greatest strength of the book for me is the underlying menace that it always lurking, even when they are having fun together and don’t seem to have a care in the world (apart from where to scam the next meal and gas money).

There were a couple of instances of “head-hopping” that were a little distracting, but I only noticed because I always get pulled up for this in my own writing, and I doubt most people would even pick up on it. It lost momentum for me slightly after the major twist involving Celia's father, which signalled the end of their road trip, but I was still engrossed till the last page. I thought Nick’s parents were saintly and somewhat unrealistic for forgiving him so readily and embracing Celia, the girl who led him astray, but it was definitely a worthwhile read and one I would recommend to adult and young adult readers alike (15+).

Celia on the Run is an enthralling tale of young love and dark secrets that will linger with you long after you have finished reading it.

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