Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting

“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

Portraits of Celina, by Sue Whiting
Walker Books, 2013
ISBN 9781922077479

Available from good bookstores or online.

Love Notes from Vinegar House, by Karen Tayleur

There are three things you should know about me if we’re ever going to be friends. The first thing is my name – Freya Jackson Kramer…The second things is that I don’t believe in ghosts – not the scary white sheet, boogie-woogie type of ghost anyway…And the third thing is that I believe in karma.

Freya does not want to spend her school holidays staying with her grandmother at Vinegar House, but her parents need to race off to visit her other grandmother (Nanna) overseas, and they don’t trust her to stay home alone, so Grandma Vinegar’s house it is. At least it will give her a chance to escape the chaos which a compromising photo of her on Facebook has caused. Vinegar House is filled with secrets – and the presence of her annoying cousin Freya, who is also holidaying there. There’s also the presence of Luke Hart, who Freya used to have a huge crush on, until he had a fling with Rumer. But is there another presence? One that might explain the light in the attic and the taps that run late at night?

Love Notes from Vinegar House is part ghost story, part coming of age tale, managing to be funny, touching and scary. Freya is a likable first person narrator, who shares her experiences in a sometimes self-deprecating, chatty manner, so that we are taken on her journey of discovery where she learns more about herself, her cousin and her extended family. The setting, too, will delight – a Gothic-style house perched on cliffs overlooking an Australian beach, with a mix of characters from contemporary teens to a grumpy, mysterious housekeeper.

A compelling young adult novel.

Love Notes from Vinegar House

Love Notes from Vinegar House, by Karen Tayleur
Black Dog Books, 2012
ISBN 9781742032191

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fispond.