“What happened to her? I dare to ask. “Really?”
Mu eyes the floor as if the answer is contained in the grains and knots of the floorboards. “No one knows for sure,” she says after a while. “Set off to school one day and was never seen again.” She pushes herself clumsily to her feet, the memory of it seeming to weigh her down. “It’s ancient history, Bails…”
A few months ago, Bayley’s father died suddenly. Now, her mother has moved the shattered family to the country, to live in the house where Celina O’Malley grew up. Moving here is supposed to heal them, but Bayley feels the presence of Celina, her mother’s cousin, who disappeared forty years ago. Bayley is sleeping in Celina’s old room, is the same age Celina was when she disappeared and, she discovers, looks just like Celina. But that’s not the strangest thing. Bayley has memories of things she couldn’t possibly remember – because they happened forty years ago. Celina seems to want Bayley’s help – but giving that help could risk Bayley’s life.
Portraits of Celina is a spooky tale of revenge, love and family. Even without the ghost haunting her, Bayley has a lot to deal with – the loss of her much loved father, a sister who’s off the rails, a barely coping mother, a little brother who won’t change out of his Batman costume, and a boy who calls her Crazyeyes and seems to like her. Mostly she balances all of this, but as the story progresses she finds support not only from within but from those around her.
Whiting balances the supernatural, ghost elements with a story which deals with very real issues of grief, teen rebellion and family, offering a read which teens will love.
Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting
Walker Books, 2013
Available from good bookstores or online.